Friday, January 02, 2009

REVIEW: He Saw a Hummingbird

Title: He Saw a Hummingbird: How the Tiniest of Birds and a Man's Indomitable Spirit Combined to Bring About a Miracle
Author(s): Norma Lee Browning and Russell Ogg
ISBN: 0525122257/ E.P. Dutton, 1978
Rating: A+

First Line: Last night I dreamed he caught a hummingbird.

The best way for a bookaholic to begin a new year is to have the very first book she reads be an A+. My choice was complete serendipity. A Paperback Swap buddy emailed me to let me know that she had a couple of books that were on my wish list but they had different ISBNs. I went to my page, updated the ISBNs and then decided to go to her book shelf on the off chance that she had something else that struck my fancy. The title was a lure no literary trout like me could resist. I love hummingbirds. There is a colony of about two dozen who live in my immediate area all year. Photography was also a subject of the book. I'm interested in photography. So...I ordered the book so she could send it along with the rest. It's one of the best book decisions I've made in a long time.

Norma Browning's husband, Russell Ogg, was diagnosed as a "brittle" diabetic shortly after they got together, and although the roller coaster of trying to keep his diabetes under control meant many trips to the hospital, neither of them let it slow them down. Ogg was a photographer; Browning a writer. They made a good team. Eventually they moved to Palm Springs, California, and it was there that Ogg developed diabetic retinopathy. It wasn't long before he was legally blind and traveling once a year to Denver for laser surgery to stop the bleeding of the blood vessels in his eyes. As his eyesight grew worse and worse, he began sitting on their Palm Springs patio...staring out at nothing. Until the day that a little red hummingbird flew up to check him out.

That one incident began a hummingbird obsession for Russell and Norma. Russell, used to tinkering with his photographic equipment, began working on pieces that would help him with something his eyes couldn't: taking quality photographs of hummingbirds. While he was turning their patio into a rabbit warren of cables and strange-looking boxes, Norma was buying up what few reference guides she could find about hummingbirds. She wanted to be able to identify what her husband photographed.

This book is an absolute delight. It's filled with facts about hummingbirds and their behavior, but even though this information brought a smile to my face, that's not the greatest part of this book. The best part of this book is how those tiny flying jewels brought a man up out of the pit of despair and gave him the determination to do what no one with 20-20 eyesight had ever done: take quality photographs of one of nature's most difficult things to capture. (Can you hear my own experience speaking here?) When I turned the last page of text and began looking at the color plates of Ogg's photographs, the tears came. They were tears of joy. If I were a dancer, I would've danced through the house carrying this marvelous little book.

What a wonderful way to start 2009!

Anna's Hummingbird from my back garden


  1. Oh my gosh - that book does sound wonderful. I'm going to look for it the next time I'm in a bookstore. We love hummingbirds too. We had tons (seasonally, not all year, like lucky you) the last 2 places we lived. So far, we only have a few here, but we'll keep trying to lure them. Thanks for the review.

  2. Fantastic review!! We have a few hummingbirds in the neighborhood, and I've yet to get a good photo, so I know what you mean. Lovely photo, BTW.

  3. How lovely to have hummingbirds nearby! This books sounds really inspiring.

  4. How lovely! We get ruby-throated hummingbirds from May through September and I just love them to pieces! We have a window feeder and they come right up there and you can see them in such detail. And when we sit on the deck, they buzz about our heads. I just love them and this book sounds fascinating!


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