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Reviews

by Michael Leppert

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s

Guide to Birds of North America, V3; $69.95

and Feederwatcher’s Guide to Backyard Birds, V3; $29.95

both available from Thayer Birding Software

www.thayerbirding.com

(Please see ad on p. 2 )

Recently, two completely different events increased my awareness and appreciation of birds in my life (no, Thanksgiving was not one of them!) The first instance was in early August, while my wife and I were chaperones on our son’s choir tour of England and Scotland. The last leg of the tour was in Edinburgh and we were staying at a university, a few miles out of town. For three chilly mornings, I was awakened to the mournful call of loons that inhabit the campus woods and grounds. It was a sound of unearthly beauty and sadness that I am grateful to have experienced and it is fixed in my memory forever. The second instance was hearing a lecture by a noted tracker and naturalist, Jon Young, in late November. Mr. Young has an amazing facility for speaking of the birds that inhabit a nearly-backyard area (i.e. not an untamed wilderness) -- bringing them to life colorfully and drawing me into their communication and awareness of the predatory animals that pass through their world constantly. He explained that by listening carefully to the noises of the little birds, one can learn what larger birds are in the neighborhood; what land animals might be around, and so forth. I left his lecture with a heightened awareness of my own yard and the numerous birds that share it with me (and our cats!).

Having had these two "bird" experiences so recently, I am prepared to tell you about the Cornell Lab’s software. For openers, it is a lot of fun! Guide to Birds of North America includes all 930 birds found in the U.S. and Canada, with over 2,600 vivid color photos. The program contains at least one photo of each bird and some types have four or five photos. And others, such as the White Pelican, have short videos accompanying the rest of the display, as well. The pertinent information about the bird is listed – common name, scientific name (with a Parrot graphic that will pronounce it for you), habitat, a detailed description of its lifestyle and habits and many of the birds’ calls can be played in both regular sound and as a spectroscopic example, showing the sound waves as they would appear on an oscilloscope. I spent quiet hours thumbing through the beginning disk, reading about some of my favorite sea birds – pelicans, albatross, cormorants, loons, swans, etc. and listening to their calls. I also found some really interesting, beautiful birds I hadn’t known of before, such as four or five varieties of finch.

Cornell University is world-famous for its Ornithology Department and this great software program brings some of its best information right into your home! If you are a confirmed bird watcher, this program is a must-have. And even you are not a bird enthusiast, this program is enjoyable and very interesting. It makes a great supplement for your older child’s (12 and up) biology studies. Birds are easy to find and study and every part of North America seems to have at least one "exotic" type of bird – owls, eagles, hawks, etc.

The Thayer website also offers over 7,000 nature items as well as extensive information about these two programs, including the previous versions, and a number of other birding books. I urge you to check out the website as soon as possible, just for the experience. Now, if you have similar experiences to mine, hearing the loons of Edinburgh, or you hear Jon Young speak at The Link Conference in June, you will be well-informed to make the most of the experience. – Michael Leppert


English From the Roots Up, Vol. 1 (100+ pages)
(Help for Reading, Writing, Spelling and SAT Scores)

by Joegil Lundquist

Published by Literacy Unlimited

POB 278, Medina, WA 98039-0278

(Ph) 425/454-5830

www.literacyunlimited.com

Joegil Lindquist attended school in Chicago, and she went on to become a school teacher as an adult. As a student in the Windy City, she was taught to love Latin and became knowledgeable about its (and Greek’s) connection with our modern English. In her role as teacher, she did her best to pass this love of Latin and Greek on to her own students. English From the Roots Up is the result of her years of experience teaching the English connection of these two ancient tongues. Her website’s motto is "When you know a little Latin and Greek, you know a lot of English." That is a succinct description of the book’s purpose . . . aid your mastery of English by beginning with some of its roots in the most widespread of the classical languages. Although it is written for class use, it is easily adaptable by any homeschooling parent with a few minutes devoted to reading over some of the exercises.

Two of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, were deeply versed in both Latin and Greek, being fluent in reading and writing them. Each spent many years reading many classical writings in their original text. This knowledge influenced the writing skill of both men, even when simply telling a child’s story. Nothing but benefit can be gained from exposure to both languages. EFTRU contains all of the information you need to begin teaching your child and having fun doing it: Pronunciation guide, study guides, exercises, word lists, etc. Mrs. Lundquist is clearly one who enjoys imparting information to others and in reading her book this enthusiasm rubs off! You and your child will have a great time wending your way through the meanings of words in Latin and Greek that now form parts of modern English words. This illuminating study will enhance your child’s skill in the four arenas mentioned as the subtitle of the book: Reading, writing, spelling and SAT scores, as well as possibly lighting a fire for further, deeper study of both languages.

At the opening of the book, Joegil discusses the demise of knowledge in America and ties that in with the demise of the teaching of Latin and/or Greek in public schools. I agree completely. Having had two years of Latin in high school, my view is that one cannot study these two languages along with the cultures and characters of the speakers of each, and at the same time be successfully "dumbed-down". Knowledge is power and this book starts you on the lifelong path of knowing the fundamentals of our most basic form of communication – spoken English. I highly recommend it. – Michael Leppert

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