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Duet: Our Journey in Song with the Northern Mockingbird

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The story of the impactful partnership between humans and mockingbirds, both scientifically and culturally over the centuries, written for young adults by award-winning nonfiction powerhouse Phil Hoose.

The Northern mockingbird’s brilliant song—a loud, bright, liquid sampling of musical notes and phrases—has made it a beloved companion and the official bird of five states. Many of our favorite songs and poems feature mockingbirds.

Mockingbirds have been companions to humans for centuries. Many Native American myths and legends feature mockingbirds, often teaching humans to speak. Thomas Jefferson’s mockingbird, “Dick”, was the first White House pet. John James Audubon’s portrait of a rattlesnake raiding a mockingbird’s nest sparked outrage in the world of art. Atticus Finch’s somber warning to his children, “Remember, it’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird,” is known throughout the world. Some jazz musicians credit mockingbirds with teaching them a four-note call that says, “Break’s over.” And mockingjays—a hybrid between jabberjays and mockers—are a symbol of the rebel cause in the Hunger Games trilogy.

But in the early 1900s the mocker was plummeting toward extinction. Too many had been trapped, sold, and caged. Something had to be done. To the rescue came a powerful and determined group of women.

Now, National Book Award and Newbery honor-winner Phillip Hoose brings the story of the important and overlooked connection between humans and mockingbirds—past, present, and future. It is the third volume of his bird trilogy.

Duet is a study in the power of song. As author Steve Sheinkin puts it, “This book will change how you listen to the world.”

ISBN-13: 9780374388775

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: Farrar Straus and Giroux

Publication Date: 09-13-2022

Pages: 160

Product Dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

Phillip Hoose is the author of Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, a National Book Award winner and a Newbery Honor Book. His other books include Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95, a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book; The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, also a Sibert Honor and Boston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction Honor Winner; We Were There, Too!, a National Book Award finalist; and Hey, Little Ant, co-written with his daughter Hannah, winner of a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. For 37 years he worked for the Nature Conservancy, which saves ecosystems and rare species throughout the world. He continues to enjoy observing a wide variety of bird species. Mr. Hoose lives in Portland, Maine.

Table of Contents

Introduction: What's That Sound? 3

Chapter 1 Four Hundred Tongues: Mockingbirds and Native Americans 11

Chapter 2 Settlers, Explorers, and Mock-Birds: 1492 to 1750 17

Chapter 3 "Dick Signs": Thomas Jefferson and the First White House Pet, 1803 25

Chapter 4 Mocker v. Nightingale-Full-Throated Rivalry: Colonial Period 33

Chapter 5 A Rattlesnake Climbs a Tree: Audubon, Wilson, and Plate 21, 1827 39

Chapter 6 Turning Point: Charles Darwin and the Galápagos Mockingbirds, 1835 47

Chapter 7 Listening to the Mockingbird: Septimus Winner and Richard Milburn, 1855 57

Chapter 8 A Visit to High Street Market: Philadelphia, Mid-19th Century 63

Chapter 9 Parrott Shells and Minié Balls: The Mocker in the Civil War, 1861 to 1865 69

Chapter 10 Women to the Rescue: 1865 to 1918 75

Chapter 11 Hush, Little Baby: 1918 to 1937 83

Chapter 12 Amelia Laskey, Citizen Scientist: 1920s to 1970s 89

Chapter 13 To Kill a Mockingbird: 1960 99

Chapter 14 Improvising: Mockers on the Move, 20th and 21st Centuries 103

Chapter 15 "They Know Me!": The Genius of Mockingbirds, 2007 111

Epilogue 117

What You Can Do to Help Mockingbirdgs and Other Songbirds 123

Acknowledgments 126

Source Notes 128

Index 137