Today’s theme is birds – for no other reason than these two recently released books both feature birds and are both extraordinarily tender and thought-provoking.
A Home for Bird – by Philip C. Stead (2012 Caldecott Winner for A Sick Day for Amos McGee) This is a gentle story of a toad named Vernon (that name makes me smile) who meets a quiet bird while out “foraging” one day. Vernon is friendly but his new friend is unresponsive. Even when Vernon takes him out to show bird the forest, some of his other favorite things and introduces bird to his friends, bird says nothing. What is so endearing is how Vernon’s perception of bird’s silence is equated to bird being “brave” and “a good listener”. Vernon’s concern about bird’s happiness and heartfelt determination to find what bird needs to be happy creates a gentle and caring story. This is a beautiful book to look at, to read and to think about. Question: What does loyalty look like? Answer: a frog named Vernon.
Bluebird by Bob Staake is a powerful wordless picture book set in what looks to be New York City. It is done in a graphic novel style and Staake’s geometric shapes of greys and blues are beautiful and help to create a melancholic backdrop. The story is a journey of friendship that develops between a bluebird and a shy, lonely boy. As the day unfolds, we see the lonely boy enjoying himself more and more as he and the bird frolic together in the park and through the streets. (You can actually witness the boy’s spirit lifting through the illustrations – amazing!) Then he and the bird run into some bullies and the bluebird risks his life to try to help the boy escape.
I don’t quite know how to start describing this book as I feel it is probably one of most moving, profound and powerful books I have read in a long. It is certainly a book that “lingers” long after you finish it. It is also sad with an ending that is unexpected (read it ahead of time before sharing it with your class – and have a Kleenex ready) It is a book that deals with loneliness, not fitting in, friendship and bullies. I feel that it is a book that NEEDS to be shared and KNOW that it will stimulate a lot of rich discussions in my class this fall. I always say “I know when a book is really good because I don’t know which strategy to list it under”. This is one of those books – connecting, questioning, inferring and transforming – my thinking is on overdrive when reading this book.