2017 Winner: Middle Grades Science Book

Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World's Brightest Bird, by Pamela S. Turner. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

In Crow Smarts, Pamela S. Turner makes the case for the New Caledonian being the world’s brightest bird. Turner and nature photographer Andy Comins join Dr. Gavin R. Hunt and his research team from the University of Auckland in field expeditions to observe crows using and producing wood-probing tools in the New Caledonian forest. The local species of crow uses sticks and makes hooked tools from twigs or the leaves of the Pandanus plant to dig out grubs from logs. Adult crows teach their young to use and produce such tools. Turner briefly covers the use of multiple tools by other animals – humans, chimpanzees, orangutans, and capuchin monkeys – and notes that only the New Caledonian crows and humans are known to make hooked tools. The book does a marvelous job connecting nature and nurture behaviors in animals. And, like all the other books in the Scientists in the Field series, it provides an intimate and realistic portrait of the researchers who have devoted their professional lives to studying nature.

About the Author

Pamela S. Turner is the author of ten non-fiction books for young people; four of them have been finalists or winners of the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books. Her book The Frog Scientist won the 2010 Middle Grades AAAS/SB&F Prize. She has also been honored as an AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize finalist for Gorilla Doctors: Saving Endangered Great Apes and Life on Earth and Beyond: An Astrobiologist's Quest. Pamela lives in Oakland, California, and volunteers at Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital nearby. For more about crows, including videos of New Caledonian crows in action, please visit her website.