Looking for a bird book that has appeal to cross the generations, one that will delight both the preschooler and the seasoned birder? Try New York Times Bestselling author and illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky’s What’s Inside a Bird’s Nest? and Other Questions and Answers about Nature & Life Cycles.

Ignotofsky is best known for her 2016 book Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, of which Scientific American noted “The world needs more books like this.” And What’s Inside a Bird’s Nest? is like this: meticulously researched, densely illustrated, and designed for non-linear reading. 

Cover: What’s Inside a Bird’s Nest by Rachel Ignotofsky

From the publisher’s standpoint, the book is aimed at children in grades Preschool through 2nd, but Ignotofsky notes that she is “always trying to reach a 10-year-old and someone with a PhD at the same time.” The “AD” in the lexile number (at the end of this post), indicates that this book is best as an “adult directed” book if read with younger children, and that the vocabulary is accessible to about middle of 5th grade and up. As a child, Ignotofsky struggled with reading, and it was not until she discovered the heavily illustrated Dorling Kindersley (DK) books that she felt successful. Her books replicate that playful learning style, allowing readers to open to any page and begin exploring. With a background as a designer—and once an illustrator at Hallmark Greetings—Ignotofsky’s use of infographics makes complex information accessible:

Detail of Feathers infographic by Rachel Ignotofsky

Text and illustrations © Rachel Ignotofsky

The book draws in the youngest readers in the initial spreads by creating the link between birds and people. The book begins with “All around the world, baby birds want their breakfast!” then details the many ways bird parents find food for their babies. That initial simplicity transitions to detailed spreads where Ignotofsky manages to weave in definitions of bird terms like “altricial” and “rachis” and “chalaza.” With her drawing of embryo development inside the egg, Ignotofsky noted that she likes when “I get to draw gross things and make it pretty.” 

Detail of "What's Inside an Egg?" by Rachel Ignotofsky

Text and illustrations © Rachel Ignotofsky

Questions, scattered throughout the text, move the story forward—and draw attention to the importance of science. What’s Inside a Bird’s Nest? addresses far more than nests, including sections on  courtship, song, pair bonding, egg development, food, predators, bird growth, anatomy and feather development, migration and the cycle of life. Ignotofsky’s creative process is to work on multiple screens at once, with windows open to listen to the birds. Her illustrations, created with a combination of traditional and computer methods, are cheerful and full of movement. 

Text and illustrations © Rachel Ignotofsky

Perhaps because so much is included in the body of the book itself, backmatter is limited to a page of sources and resources. These resources include a note about Ignotofsky’s website, where she has a free downloadable coloring page—perfect for your hands-on-learner. 

This is the type of book that begs to be out and accessible, where it can be easily picked up by readers of any age—readers that can flip open anywhere and be drawn in to learn. 

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What’s Inside a Bird’s Nest? Written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky 

Crown Books for Young Reader, 2024

ISBN: 978-0593176528

$19.99 USA; $26.99 Canada

48 pages, Grade level Preschool – 2 (per publisher), Lexile AD540L

 

Written by Susan Wroble
Susan Wroble has always paid attention to the birds around her, perhaps in part because Burd is her middle name! She is always happiest when outside gardening and listening to birdsong. Coming from a family with a strong commitment to service, Susan started volunteering after college with two years in the Peace Corps in the Independent State of Western Samoa, where she taught high school math and science. Currently, she volunteers as leader of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Society for Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and at the Colorado Children’s Hospital. She also leads a long-term Denver-area support group for parents of Twice-Exceptional Children. Susan’s degrees are in electrical engineering and foreign affairs, but her great love is children’s books. She writes nonfiction, and tends to focus on stories that share a message of hope in this era of climate change. She has written four children’s books for the school library market. Her book DAWN CHORUS: PROTECTING BIRDSONG AROUND THE WORLD is scheduled for publication with Holiday House in 2026.