Friday, February 11, 2011

Bird Love - Four Picture Book Mini Reviews

   My girls are obsessed with birds at the moment. All the books that Susanna loves the most are about birds: Owl Babies, The Best Nest, and the Gossie books.
  My older girls have been fascinated by the huge flocks of small birds that stay here in the south during the winter. One day as we were going to town (which takes us about twenty minutes) we all watched in wonder as this HUGE flock of birds burst off the ground and flew for miles along with us. There must have been many thousands of birds, because the flock stretched thickly for literally miles, and we couldn't see the end of it. My girls watched them in silent awe the whole trip until we saw them turn and head in another direction. And of course they were full of questions. What made them gather together in such huge numbers? How did they decide where they were going? How could so many birds all in one place find enough to eat in winter? On and on the questions went. So we started looking into the answers. Along the way, of course, bird picture books caught their eye at the library. So here is our recent "bird" line-up of library books:

Written by Kevin Henkes
Illustrated by Laura Dronzek
Ages: 2 and up
Publisher: Harper Collins

A simple, appealing book about birds from an artistic, imaginative standpoint. The first part of the book talks about their physical characteristics in simple terms. The last half talks about them from a "what if.." point of view. For example:
"If birds made marks with their tail feathers when they flew,
think what the sky would look like."
  (The illustrations show bird "contrails" on that page.)
  The illustrations are perfect for the text. They are bright, bold paintings that are almost child-like in their simplicity. My girls loved the book.

 The Language of Doves
Written by Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by Greg Shed
Ages: 4 and up
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers

  On Julietta's sixth birthday, her grandfather gives her an Isabella dove, and tells her the story of his Isabella dove he was given as a boy and what became of her.
  This was a good story. Very interesting, historically speaking, as well. (Don't forget to read the author's note at the front.) I love stories of children interacting with their grandparents. And I love the idea of passing on family stories. The illustrations are marvelous. Every picture glows with light, and feels like a snapshot of a memory.

Crow Call
Written by Lois Lowry
Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Ages: 4 and up
Publisher: Scholastic Press

  Liz is going hunting for crows with her stranger father who just returned from the war. It is the story of a little girl and her father connecting in a real way, which resonates with all children (and their parents). It is based on the true experiences of the author. My girls loved this story. They could relate because their daddy takes them on daddy-daughter dates all the time, and they love that connection time with him.
  Again, a beautiful pairing of art to story. The colors work so well for the hesitancy and awkwardness that both of the characters may be feeling, as well as the time period in which the story is set. And the facial expressions are wonderful. The illustrations feel so hopeful, which captures the essence of the story perfectly.

Written by Donna Jo Napoli
Illustrated by Jim LaMarche
Ages: 4 and up
Publisher: Harcourt Trade Publishers

  Fearful Albert can always find a reason not to go outside. Then one day when he sticks his hand out the window to check the weather, a twig falls in his hand. In shock and surprise he watches as two cardinals build their nest in his hand. And the experience will change his life forever.
  My girls, while recognizing how absurd Albert's situation was, were thoroughly delighted by this book. They both laughed at and empathized with some of Albert's fears, and they rejoiced when he was finally set free.
The illustrations are so wonderful. I think Jim LaMarche captured Albert perfectly. We oohed and aahed over the pictures. And the girls were fascinated by the fact that they were rendered in colored pencil. Oh, to have talent like that!

Can you think of other picture books featuring birds that will aid our "obsession"?

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