top of page

The Picture Book Buzz

Tiny Bird: A Hummingbird's Amazing Journey - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

One of my favorite birds is the hummingbird. I love their personality, fierceness, and tenacity. A favorite childhood memory of mine revolves around a rare, special stop for pie at a mountain pass lodge. Glancing outside, as we waited, I watched about 30 hummingbirds swarm around three feeders. I was totally mesmerized.

When, as an adult, I finally had a place to put out feeders, I eagerly anticipating hordes of hummers massing in my yard. However, I attracted a very defensive Anna's Hummingbird pair who chased off any and all other hummingbirds. Although initially dissapointed, because they remain year-round in the Pacific Northwest, I've been lucky to watch them raise their young and conduct amazing acrobatics.

I was so excited about the announcement of this week's #PPBF choice. I think you will agree that Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor created a soaringly beautiful, nonfiction book.

Tiny Bird: A Hummingbird's Amazing Journey

Author: Robert Burleigh

Illustrator: Wendell Minor

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt & Company (2020)

Ages: 5-9



Hummingbirds, life cycle, and migration.


Robert Burleigh's narrative nonfiction picture book follows a hummingbird’s migration south for the winter, with stunning art by Wendell Minor.

When the last summer flowers open their petals to the sun, it’s time for a tiny ruby-throated hummingbird to dip its beak into the heart of each bloom, extracting as much nectar as possible before the hard trip ahead.

Today is the day Tiny Bird begins its amazing journey south for the winter, traveling as fast as thirty miles an hour for hundreds of miles on end. The trip is long, with savage weather and many predators along the way, but Tiny Bird is built for this epic journey and eventually arrives at its winter home.

This inspiring migratory and life cycle story celebrates the important and impressive feat of a small but mighty creature.

Opening Lines:

Today is the day.

In the yard,

the last orange flowers

open their petals to the slanting sun.

A ruby-throated hummingbird is feeding.

Just three inches long,

Tiny Bird hovers above a blossom

as if hanging from an unseen thread.

What I LOVED about the book:

From the very beginning of this beautiful nonfiction, the reader is in for a treat. The end pages are loaded with information on the size of the ruby-throated hummingbird, its nest, and eggs, as well as a map of its migratory flight.

Text © Robert Burleigh, 2020. Image © Wendell Minor, 2020.

Told in third person, this lyrical story employs alliteration ("A sudden storm stirs up the sea."), onomatopoeia, occasional rhyme ("Radiant green feathers glimmering, ruby throat shimmering,"), imagery ("as if hanging from an unseen thread."), and a fun refrain ("Today is the day.").

Robert Burleigh begins by exploring Tiny Bird's aerobatics & feeding in the last days of summer, until "it feels a pull . . . to fly to a far-off winter home." Wendell Minor's colorful, delicate, yet lively illustrations perfectly endear the reader to this tiny sweet bird.

Text © Robert Burleigh, 2020. Image © Wendell Minor, 2020.

With lots of information, such as the bird's size, uniqueness and speed of flight, and diet, masterfully woven throughout the text and the illustrations, we follow Tiny Bird's 1,500-mile journey from New England to Mexico. The illustrations alternate between impressive closeup images of Tiny Bird flying over beautiful landscapes and small, life-size images dodging a hawk, flying behind pelicans, upon reaching the Gulf of Mexico, and swooping over the waves.

At this point, the tension increases as Tiny Bird faces a "nonstop flight of more than twenty hours," a flight many hummingbirds don't survive. Tiny Bird struggles against the wind, narrowly escapes a fish, and battles through a storm. I won't spoil the ending, but I know you'll love it.

Text © Robert Burleigh, 2020. Image © Wendell Minor, 2020.

This gorgeous nonfiction book manages, without anthropomorphizing the hummingbird, to put the reader directly into the bird's harrowing and exhausting migration. Allowing the reader to appreciate the courage and determination of these tiny, powerful, beautiful birds who repeat this journey twice a year. It also includes a section on fun facts, ways to help hummingbirds, and additional resources. Overall, this is a great book to round out a library collection and a fun #STEM book for learning about the remarkable ruby-throated hummingbird.


- make an origami hummingbird. (

- watch National Geographic's video of hummingbird's in slow motion (

- become a member of the "Hummingbird Helper Club" & do activities from the back of the book (plant flowers or hang a feeder).

- watch for hummingbirds in your area. Think about joining a citizen science project, like the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Program Feeder Watch (

- write your own story or draw a picture of a hummingbird (or other bird you're interested in).

If you missed the interview of Robert Burleigh on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

Follow Me

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • 1473394675_goodreads
  • Pinterest



bottom of page