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Petrels and the boy who helped save them; Bermuda Petrel: The Bird that Would Not Die, by Francine Jacobs. Illustrations by Ted Lewin. New York: William Morrow & Co. $7.95

Don't feel ignorant if you have never heard of the Bermuda petrel, or cahow. There are only about 100 of them left, and they live on five tiny islets in Bermuda. No one may visit the islets unless accompanied by a conservation officer.

When Spanish explorers first arrived in Bermuda, millions of cahows lived there, but settlers and the animals they brought with them from the Old World had a devastating effect on the birds. After 1620 there is no record of a Bermuda petrel being seen again until the 20th century, when naturalists rediscovered a tiny handful of them. This, in itself makes for an amazing tale.

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The factual, yet simply written story of a boy who loved petrels is a lesson for young readers on the sometimes delicate balance that exists between man and nature. It is an example of the threat faced by many animals which make their home in one place, and it shows how a few people who care can affect the fate of an endangered species. Further, it underlines the threat posed by use of long- lasting pesticides to creatures living sometimes thousands of miles away, for just as the birds were thought to be increasing, DDT began to decimate their number. Fortunately, the use of DDT is now controlled, and the petrel population is slowly growing.

Ted Lewin's black and white illustrations give a gentle, watery look to this story of peaceable bir ds and the sea-splashed islands they call home.

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