Mike Spinak, who I know on Google+, asked me to review his PDF ebook Growing Up Humming, and gave me free access to a copy in order to do so. He made it clear that he wasn't asking for a favourable review and that I shouldn't pull any punches, but call it as I see it.
Since, as he's surely aware if he's read many of my reviews, that's exactly what I do, I considered his request showed chutzpah. But is it still chutzpah if the book is genuinely really good?
Growing Up Humming is brilliant. Mike is a nature photographer, and a very fine one, as I already knew from seeing his photos posted on G+. He captures the maturation of two hummingbird chicks beautifully, so beautifully that I kept wondering, "How does he get these shots?"
But it's not just the photography that's good. His accompanying text is aimed at a young audience, but I, as an adult, found it both entertaining and educational. Not only did it teach me a lot about Anna's hummingbirds, but it has a subtext about growing up, being taken care of by a parent, learning from her, and then becoming self-sufficient, that while plentifully clear wasn't at all heavy-handed. It arose naturally from the description of what was going on with the hummingbird family, and made the book more than just a recitation of hummingbird facts (interesting though those were).
What's more - and this is something I bang on about a lot, as you know if you follow my reviews - the editing is flawless. It's a brief text, but I didn't spot a single error of grammar, punctuation or spelling. That should be something we can take for granted, but it very much is not (even in books produced by large corporate publishers, these days), and I appreciate it on the increasingly-rare occasions when I find it.
I have no hesitation in recommending Growing Up Humming to anyone with an interest in nature or photography, or anyone who just wants a really entertaining short book of very cool photos with a well-written text. I'm going to show it to my wife and suggest that we buy a copy for her little goddaughter, in fact. It's $3 (USD) from Mike's Naturography site.