Winged Wonders: A Celebration of Birds in Human History is written by two educated men – Peter Watkins (viscar in West London and author of several other books) and Jonathan Scotland (former director of education at Oxfam in Great Britain, an entrepreneur and a UN consultant). Readers can’t help but notice that the book is written in a style
which one would assume is that a university professor. Both authors are avid bird watchers and have studied the avian world for many years.
Winged Wonders was originally published in the UK by Canterbury Press Norwich (2005) and
was recently released in the North America by Bluebridge Books (2007), a relatively small independent publishing company that focuses on nonfiction books that are thought-provoking for the mind and spirit. Stefan Killen Design and The Bridgeman Art Library designed
the jacket and slipcover protecting the plain, white hardcover. The beautifully designed slipcover features art originating from the
"Palace of Amsterdam with Exotic Birds" (1636-95).
Very well researched and organized, the book covers 16 well-known bird species that have inspired the imagination of people across the centuries. Readers will find reference to classical plays, music and even to historical art. The authors offer quotes from poems and reveal how common sayings relate to historic events involving birds.
Excerpts of nursery rhymes and serious literature are referred to throughout the book. The authors also delve into legends, religions and folktales from around the world and show how
they relate to today’s society. It's intriguing to learn of the origin of some myths
and about avian survival tactics, mating habits and lifestyle aspects, from nest-building to food-gathering and migration.
Watkins and Stockland go to the extent of including a discussion on the evolution of birds in art and 26 sketch illustrations within Winged Wonders' 224 pages.
Interesting intellectual and unusual facts will keep the mind spinning on historic human perceptions and interpretations of the avian world. Readers partial to history, art, literature and culture will certainly find this book as interesting as the avid bird watcher. Those interested in the birds associated with America’s states will find this book of particular interest as well.
At the end of reading Winged Wonders, I felt like I had taken a summer course in the relationships between humans and birds. Light-hearted humor and interesting factoids kept me absorbed in the pages right through to the end. The main concept I will take with me from Winged Wonders is that birds have inspired and intrigued humans since the beginning of time, and we continue to be awed by them today.
Unfortunately, I could find no information in the book or on the publisher’s site regarding environmentally sound printing options that were chosen, such as using chlorine- or acid-free paper. Because the environment is a strong passion of mine, I feel I have to dock the book by 1/2 a star. Otherwise, I highly recommend this book.