Saturday, May 5, 2012

Trash or Treasure: Real Boys and Girls Go Birding

I found this book at one of the local libraries. This particular library is unique in my experience because they have both a permanent book sale section, and a free book section. Real Boys and Girls Go Birding was among the free books, and it became clear to me while reading that there was no way in hell anyone would ever pay money for this book. In fact, I feel like I did the library a favor by taking it and freeing up shelf space. It's that bad.

Title: Real Boys and Girls Go Birding
Author: Jack Van Coevering
Date of Publication: 1939
Publisher: J.P. Lipincott
ISBN: None given.

(Warning: I'm going to have to dig deep to come up with anything for this section.)
+ I like the color of the cover.

+ It's clear that the author had the best of intentions in trying to share his love of birding with children.

+ There's lots of information about birding for an elementary age audience. (Too bad no child would ever read this book because it's deadly dull and seems phony to a modern reader).

+ The author has a cool name.

The title. I know it's only meant to convey that this is non-fiction, but it makes me think about all those stereotypes of masculinity, like "real men don't cry" or whatever. Then I crack up about the idea that the title is challenging kids to be "real" boys and girls and get out there to do some birding!

- The narrative conceit is that the author/narrator goes around spotting birds and sharing his knowledge about them with a (possibly fictional) boy named Jimmy. Jimmy is rabid about birding and infallibly deferential. The book reminded me of those instructional films from the 40s and 50s in which perfect children display model behavior (duck and cover in a ditch when the nuclear bomb hits, Jimmy!).

- Blurry, badly composed black and white pictures. My scans might actually be an improvement.

- The book's very musty. It's to be expected due to the age of the book, but it makes it almost impossible to read for anyone who is at all sensitive to that kind of thing.

Final verdict: Trash. I feel a little bit guilty, since this book was clearly a labor of love for Mr. Van Coevering. But it's awful.

Want your own copy? I don't know why you would. Maybe you collect awful books? That might actually be an interesting hobby. But in any case, there are 15 copies available on Amazon. I'm shocked that anyone expects to make money by selling this book, but the world's a crazy place. I'd love to hear your take on whether today's book deserves a yay or nay! I'm also still looking for reader suggestions for books that deserve the Trash or Treasure evaluation. Until next time, happy Trash or Treasure hunting!


  1. I LOVE that title. Is it okay to steal the title of a book that's like 70 years old and nobody has ever read it anyway? I even kind of like the whole concept. Maybe it just needs some updating? Make Jimmy a little "edgier", give him a leather jacket or something. Also all this bird-watching is happening in a dystopian future where bird-watching has been outlawed.

    1. I should send it to you so that you can make a comic in homage!

    2. haha by the way, I read the title at least a handful of times, but EVERY time I read it like a challenge to be "real" rather than just, this is a book about real kids.

    3. I do too! I think it's more amusing that way.