The Best Nest

Midwest Book Review - May 2008

Both as pets and in the wild, children are attracted to birds. Engagingly written by Doris L. Mueller and beautifully enhanced with the full color art work of Sherry Neidigh, "The Best Nest" is the retelling of an old English folktale about how long ago magpies built nests that were the envy of all the other birds. To help those other birds, Maggie Magpie patiently explained how to build a nest. But some birds were impatient and flew off without listening to all the directions. That is why today birds' nests come in all different shapes and sizes! Of special note is the addition to this highly recommended picturebook for children a very special educational section, 'For Creative Minds', that provides children with fun facts about birds, 'bird math', bird injuries, and a 'Match the Nest' activity with nest information for Magpies, Killdeer, Robins, Screech-Owls, Starlings, Brewer's Blackbird; the Common Grackle, Meadowlarks, Whip-poor-wills, Mourning Doves, and the Northern Oriole. Also from Arbordale Publishing and very highly recommended for family, school and community library collections for children ages 2 to 6 is "Animals Are Sleeping" (9781934359266, $8.95 PB; 9781934359099, $15.95 HC) by author Suzanne Slade and illustrator Gary Phillips.

Nature Trails and Tales - March 2011

They have a teachers guide and worksheet activities along with quizzes and much more. Seriously if you ever need a wonderful book to cover science, reading, and math check out all the awesome Arbordale books


Eclectic Homeschool Online - June 2010

Magpie builds a nest that is safe and secure, and so the other birds ask her to give them a nest-building lesson. However, birds' attention spans can be pretty short, and so the students leave, one by one, as the lesson proceeds, meaning that they get some instructions, but miss more...

There are many folktales that explain how things came to be, and The Best Nest is just such a story, telling in a charming, whimsical way how the birds came to build different nests. We've had fun, after reading a few of these, making up our own folktales along the same lines. Reading this book was also a great discussion starter, about what happens when you don't listen!

Several reproducible pages of educational activities follow the story. Basic facts about birds are followed by a matching game that teaches about the kinds of nests built by different birds. These pages are also available at the publisher's website along with additional teaching activities and links to related websites.

As with all of Arbordale's books that I've seen, The Best Nest is lavishly illustrated and beautifully yet simply told.

This book is available in hardcover and paperback in English, and in e-book format in both English and Spanish. Additional material for the book can be found at the Arbordale website, including learning activities, quizzes, and links to related websites. -Virginia Jones

Armchair Interviews - March 2008

I always wonder how Arbordale will surpass their last published titles. And then I look at and read the current crop and realize that they have wonderful authors, the most talented illustrators and subject matter that is both fun and informative. The end result is hard to beat.

There was a time, oh so long ago, that magpies built the best nests ever and were the envy of all the other birds. Maggie Magpie believed in helping other birds so she took the time to patiently teach the other birds how to build a strong, comfortable and safe nest.

The other birds (most of them) were not as patient as Maggie and listened to a few tips and then flew off without hearing all of the directions. Maggie gave up helping and let the birds fly off and build their nests the way they wanted to. The result? All nests are different sizes and shapes. Oh, there was one bird who listened carefully to Maggie’s directions. Read the story and find out who that was.

The illustrations are stunning and both children and adults will be drawn to them.

Arbordale books always have a fun and educational component to their books. The For Creative Minds section includes fun facts about birds, bird math, and an activity section.

Armchair Interviews says: This is a wonderful book for children, but should also be in every school library also. - Andrea Sisco

CLCD - March 2008

An enticing first sentence, “Long ago, when the world was young, only the magpie knew how to build a nest,” pulls readers and listeners into this tale of why birds build the kind of nest they do. The story is based on the fact that many kinds of birds admire the magpie for building a large nest that could keep its babies safe. They want to learn how to do the same, so Maggie the magpie begins to teach them how to build a sturdy nest. However, as most of them do not want to take time to listen, they fly away with only bits and pieces of the information they need. The killdeer, whip-poor-will, screech-owl, blackbird, grackle, meadowlark, robin, dove, and oriole are included. Only the oriole stays to hear all of the hints and that is why only the oriole makes a nest as strong and beautiful as the magpie’s is today. After the first few birds fly away, children will delight in predicting what is going to happen. Without begin didactic, the lesson rings clear that it is important to listen to all of what is being taught. The illustrator’s soft, realistic pictures mesh well with the text to make a winning product. While the publisher suggests ages 4 to 8, it is felt that children as young as 3 and as old as 10 would enjoy this book. BIBLIO: 2008, Arbordale, Ages 4 to 8, $15.95. - Nancy Attebury

The Reading Tub - March 2008

Summary: Mother birds are sad. They have no place to lay their eggs and always seem to be searching for a safe spot. They admire Maggie Magpie's nest, and they ask her to teach them. Maggie agrees, but each time she tries to explain a step, a bird gets an idea and flies off to create their own. As her class gets smaller, Maggie gets angrier. Will all the birds build a nest? A clever story about building nests is wrapped in this book full of facts about birds.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, anytime reading, playtime reading, read aloud book, learning to read

Recommended Age: read together: 3 to 8; read yourself: 7 to 9

Age of Child: Read with a 6-year-old girl.

Little Kid Reaction: Our daughter liked looking at the birds. She loved finding the eggs and baby birds in the nests.

Big Kid Reaction: This is a clever story. It will remind you of reading a fable or folktale (like a Native American story), but it is full of specific detail about how various species of birds build their nest.

Pros: This picture book offers information about birds wrapped in a fictional tale. The illustrations are finely detailed, and there is a matching game at the end that offers additional information to expand the learning.

Art of Creativity - June 2008

Maggie Magpie is an excellent nest builder, so all the other birds want to learn from her in order to protect their own eggs better. However, do they learn, and if so how much? Not only does the young child learn how each of the eleven birds build their nests, but they also become budding bird watchers as each bird and its habitat are illustrated in loving detail by illustrator Sherry Neidigh.

It is obvious that author Doris L. Mueller has put great thought into the building of her story, and young readers will eagerly follow along with Maggie as she takes time to teach her sometimes-impatient bird pupils. You can imitate the dove’s sounds, and perhaps your teacher or parents can help you find recordings of the other bird songs as part of a classroom or home activity. Other information, facts, and a “Match the Nest Activity” are included. This is a fun and engaging book for ages 3 – 8. -Judith Nasse

Family Briefs - March 2008

There’s nothing like the budding of spring to get me itching to get outside and enjoy a little nature. There’s nothing like the onslaught of pollen to get me sneezing and running back inside. Ah well, nature has it’s moments!

As we have been watching the backyard become more and more green, losing the drab brown of winter, we’ve also noticed all the extra activity - the squirrels, chipmunks, and birds are busy, busy, busy! Just last week, there were more Robins in our yard than we could even count (of course the children banging on the glass, making them fly, added to the difficulty of counting : ).

All those Robins prompted this week’s Storytime Saturday choice: The Best Nest, by Doris L. Mueller. This is another book I received from Arbordale Publishing - anyone who’s willing to send me a free book, I’m more than happy to review it!

The story begins with a single magpie (that’s a bird, which I had forgotten) building a large strong nest, and a comparison is made to other birds that haphazardly lay their eggs anywhere. Of course, those birds have fewer eggs to hatch than the careful and diligent magpie. The other birds get together and decide to have the magpie teach them how to build nests like her.

As the story progresses, some birds take only a bit of the magpie’s wisdom and fly off to build a nest with the limited knowledge they’ve gained - not enough to build a better nest. Despite the magpie’s annoyance, she continues trying to teach the other birds. Although more birds continue leaving before the lesson is finished. Only the oriole stayed to hear all of the lesson, producing the only other bird that has a nest as strong and beautiful as the magpie’s.

This is a great lesson about all the many different ways that birds build their nests. The illustrations by Sherry Neidigh are so beautiful and colorful, and she does a great job of depicting each bird’s coloring, eggs, and nests. What a fun way to learn about this part of nature that many of us never even think about. I mean - when was the last time you thought about how a Robin builds her nest compared to how a Grackle builds hers?

One of the wonderful parts of the Arbordale Publishing books is the activity section at the back of the book. This particular book has a page with “Bird Fun Facts;” another page has “Bird Math” where you try to calculate how many eggs a bird might produce in a year; there is also a two-page spread “Match the Nest Activity,” where you read the description of a nest and match it to the correct bird.

My three oldest children (8, 5, and 3) thoroughly enjoyed this story, and have been looking for the birds mentioned throughout the book in our backyard. Next thing you know, they’ll be out there trying to catch them and teach them how to build a nest the RIGHT way!

Arbordale Publishing has a vast assortment of educational, fun books just like this one at their website. They also have a plethora of activities you can do online, resources for parents and teachers, free audio books, and even stuffed animals that correspond to some of their books. Click here to check it out!
-Karen Herring

In The Pages - May 2008

Doris L. Mueller's The Best Nest- is SUPERB!!! Another Arbordale book that makes top marks with me!! (And it isn't just because I am a bird lover either!!) Ever wondered why birds build their nests differently - well this book explains it! It is told in story format, so it's non-fiction learning with fiction story - I love that. The illustrations, by Sherry Neidigh, are beautiful - eye-catching pictures of birds and nests. AND the best part of a Arbordale book?? All the parent/teacher helps in the back of the book - oh yes, and their magnificent website - see, I could just go on and on. - April 2008

*5 Star Review! As with all folktales, lessons are learned through new perspectives and interpretations. These provide explanations, although not necessarily factual (generally very far from fact), but through the story observations might create unexpected insight. The Best Nest is an old English folktale that illustrates the importance of listening but through this lesson we also learn how some birds build nests. Doris L. Mueller uses this book to demonstrate how the patient bird actually gets the best nest and the impatient bird’s life really doesn’t change.

For example:

"Long ago, when the world was very young, only the magpie knew how to build a nest. Her nest was large and so well built that her babies were kept safe."

During this same time other birds were laying eggs on the ground, in logs, and unsafe locations. Their eggs were frequently lost to predators and the mother birds were understandably sad. So, they all decided to ask Mother Magpie, Maggie, to show them how to build a nest. She was honored and agreed. But, some of the birds must have had attention deficit disorders and as soon as she provided one tip some flew away. The killdeer was excited and hurried off to build a nest.

The killdeer heard Maggie say, "First of all you must find hollow space that is the right size." The killdeer knew the perfect spot, it would be easy, and she laid an egg in a hollow space on the ground. (Today, that’s where the killdeer still lays her eggs.)

Then other birds began forming their own opinions, before Maggie provided any more tips. The screech-owl thought it would be easier to place the eggs in a hollow tree trunk. Some of the remaining birds wanted to learn more and listened, at least for the next tip, which was taking some mud to plaster twigs on to the inside wall of the nest. Naturally another bird (the blackbird) flew off with just this much information. Today, that’s how the blackbird builds a nest.

Eventually Maggie became frustrated, but she did provide all of the directions before flying off. Of all of the birds, the last to listen to the instruction was the oriole and to this day it creates the best nest thanks to Maggie.

"The Baltimore Oriole carefully weaves a deep hanging pouch of plant fibers, hair, yarn or string, and attaches it to a tree branch. This pouch, or sack, has a top opening. The nest is lined with hair, wool, or fine grasses. The female usually builds the nest while her mate stays nearby and sings. It can take from five to eight or more days to build this intricate nest."

Illustrator Sherry Neidigh brings this book to life. The detail on the birds, their eggs, the background is very impressive. She did her research on the appearance of the eggs, birds, nests, and background insects. The evergreen needles, chew holes on leaves, markings on butterflies are in themselves educational experiences for the careful observer. In retelling this story Doris L. Mueller substituted birds native to North America for the ones common in England and in doing so she made this a familiar tale that introduces children to birds they are likely to see.

But There’s Educational Content in this Folktale Arbordale Publishing has been providing amazing educational content with their books. I just expect it. Besides the fact that this story quickly engages the reader, they enhance the experience for child, parent, and teacher in numerous ways.

For Creative Minds is a collection of activities found at the end of the book that builds upon the learning. This offers Bird Fun Facts, Bird Math, Is it Injured? and Match the Nest. I especially like the match the nest activity, which shows the birds from the story nest to a written description of the nest that the reader matches to the image of the nest. (The above description of the Baltimore Oriole's nest comes from the nest activity.) Do you want more?

Online at teachers can select this book from the home page to discover so much more. A 30-page PDF of teaching activities completes the learning experience with questions, language arts, science, math, research, geography, and listening. There are writing prompts and comprehension questions. They’ve begun to align this book and its lessons to learning standards for both early elementary and late elementary. Standards are provided for National Standards, the North American Association for Environmental Educators, as well as 13 states (including Illinois, California and Texas). As a teacher I enjoy what they offer, but if I’m going to use this for more than a day building this around other resources can make it a more valuable experience. The Learning Links (also found on their website) includes general bird information, general bird nest and life cycle information, math-related activities, and lots of bird specific resources from highly respected online sites. (These include Cornell Ornithology Lab, Audubon, Wild Bird Unlimited, Project Feeder Watch, and US Fish & Wildlife Service)

To say I’m impressed is an understatement. Everything about this book and the online resources enhances its value for bird education, habitat awareness, and adaptations, as well as listening skills. Hmmm, the folktale about birds and listening provided an intriguing opportunity to learn about more than building nests. If you’re looking at birds with younger elementary children, let me recommend this highly informative and fun book. There are two levels of readers, those learning to read and those reading to learn. The younger readers will enjoy the story and pictures while the older readers will benefit from the facts and the details.

I wish to thank Arbordale Publishing for the opportunity to provide an honest review of this book. I find their products impressive and incredibly valuable resources for teachers. Who says you can’t teach science through reading—certainly not me! -Patsy Side