There are three astonishingly beautiful picture books for children which should be considered for every school library or bookshelf.
“How to Heal a Broken Wing” by Bob Graham is the fictional account of a pigeon who flies into a skyscraper in the middle of a large city and falls to the sidewalk. People walk past, unseeing and uncaring, but when Will and his mother walk by, Will sees. Will cares. Will breaks away from his mother and goes back to the hurt bird. He gently picks it up and holds it out to his mother.
This touching story of one boy’s compassion for a bird many consider dirty and vermin-like is beautifully told and illustrated. The text is quite spare as are the illustrations. Both parents make identical gestures when they first see the bird — their hands on their heads as if to say, “Really?!” But both wholeheartedly join in the rescue attempt, the mother giving up her scarf to carefully wrap the bird for its trip to their house and the father going out to buy the injured bird a cage to recuperate in. And slowly — the author shows the passage of time through illustrations of the changing moon — the bird heals.
This is a story that will not soon be forgotten, and it might just be the book that changes a child’s life and view of those who are helpless, those whom others don’t notice, those who desperately need help. It’s a story that would certainly facilitate productive conversations about helping others and the value of life.
Quite different from the fictional story of one pigeon is the nonfiction book “Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth” by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Emily Sutton. In “Many,” the author presents the incredible diversity, the incredibly enormous numbers and types of plants and animals and even microbes that exist alongside of us on our planet. From two kinds of huge elephants (African and Asian) to more than 600 kinds of oak trees; from over 100,000 kinds of mushrooms to thousands of microbes in one teaspoon of dust, and from deserts to islands, from treetops to the bottom of the ocean, the author states:
“We have learned that every kind of living thing is part of a big, beautiful, complicated pattern.
The last part of the book warns about the danger of continuing to disrupt the beautiful, natural pattern that is life on Earth. “The trouble is, all over the world, human beings are destroying pieces of the pattern…” Examples are chemicals poisoning our air, rivers and oceans and fishing boats emptying the oceans and people cutting forests resulting in the extinction of animals and plants.
This book is perfect for starting a conversation or project about the environment and what we must do to protect it for our children and future generations.
Another nonfiction picture book is “Song of the Wild: A First Book of Animals” also by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Petr Horácek. This picture book is organized by “Big and Small,” “Color and Shapes,” Animal Homes,” “Animal Babies,” and “Animals in Action.”
The largest bird, the African ostrich, is compared to the tiniest, a hummingbird just bigger than a bee. It could fit inside the ostrich’s eye. The information is presented in rhyme, which makes this a lovely book to read aloud.
“The ostrich lives in Africa
in grasslands hot and dry,
the biggest bird in all the world —
in fact, too large to fly.”
There are giraffes and lions and elephants and ants. One sepia and taupe monochromatic page titled “What Am I?” presents information about mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, and more. The next page begins “Colors and Shapes” and has brilliant color illustrations of beetles with the information that there are more than 300,000 kinds of beetles. Camel with their humps, zebras and tigers resplendent with stripes, and a panda grace the pages of this chapter.
This is not a picture book for a quick read. Rather, this is a picture book that youngsters will want to peruse slowly as they absorb all the information. They will learn that even a crocodile is tender when it comes to her babies.
“No one thinks of crocodiles as gentle;
tenderness is something for the doves.
But when baby crocodiles are hatching,
it’s hard to say they don’t get Mother’s love.”
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by Candlewick Press for review purposes.