My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo

My Beautiful Birds

Suzanne Del Rizzo, Author and Illustrator

Pajama Press, Fiction, Mar. 8, 2017

Suitable for ages: 6-10

Themes: Refugees, Refugee camps, Syria, Birds, Hope

Opening: “The Ground rumbles beneath my slippers as I walk. Father squeezes my hand. “It will be okay, Sami. Your birds escaped too,” he repeats. His voice sounds far away. I squeeze back, hoping it will steady my wobbly legs.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: Behind Sami, the Syrian skyline is full of smoke. The boy follows his family and all his neighbors in a long line as they trudge through the sands and hills to escape the bombs that have destroyed their homes. But all Sami can think of is his pet pigeons — will they escape too?

When they reach a refugee camp and are safe at last, everyone settles into the makeshift city. But though the children start to play and go to school again, Sami can’t join in. When he is given paper and paint, all he can do is smear his painting with black. He can’t forget his birds and what his family has left behind.

One day a canary, a dove, and a rose finch fly into the camp. They flutter around Sami and settle on his outstretched arms. For Sami it is one step in a long healing process at last.

Why I like this book:

Suzanne Del Rizzo offers a timely, compassionate and poignant story of a Syrian child refugee who flees his beloved home with his family and leaves behind his pet pigeons. Sami’s story is a journey of hardship, sorrow, and hope for a better future. The text is lyrical at times, but mostly it is honest. Conditions are cramped in the tent city, but Sami and his family are safe. But he has trouble adjusting to his new life. He continues to worry about his pigeons, until three birds appear one day and he finds his joy again. This is a turning point for Sami.

Del Rizzo’s exquisite polymer clay illustrations add depth and a life-like dimension to Sami’s story . Her stunning  sunset with vibrant colors of pink, purple and golden hues remind Sami of his sky at home. He even sees his fluffy cloud-like pigeons.

I appreciated that the author focused on the refugee crisis that is affecting the most innocent and vulnerable, children. She doesn’t address political themes in the book, but focuses on the humanity of the situation for children displaced from their homes in Syria. Instead, her story is based on an article she read about a boy who found comfort in connecting with wild birds at the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.

My Beautiful Birds is an excellent addition to any school library. It is age-appropriate and an introductory story about children who are displaced because of war or natural disasters.

Resources: Make sure you check out the Author’s Note at the end of the book. She talks about the displaced refugees in Syria that flee to nearby countries,  but she also talks about the 65.3 million people who are displaced worldwide.  For more information and resources about the Syrian conflict, visit the Pajama Press website.

Suzanne Del Rizzo has always loved getting her hands messy. She traded her job in scientific research for a career in children’s illustration with her first picture book, Skin on the Brink, which won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award and was a finalist for the Rainforest of Reading Award. Suzanne’s dimensional illustrations use Plasticine, polymer clay, and other mixed media to bring rich texture and imagination to her books. Suzanne and her family live in Oakville, Ontario.

*I was captivated by Patricia Nozell’s lovely review of My Beautiful Birds on her website, Wander, Ponder Write.  Check out her website, because she is reviewing a lot of books about child refugees and immigrants stories from all over the globe.

Animal School: What Class Are You?

Animal School9780823430451_p0_v1_s260x420Animal School: What Class Are You?

Michelle Lord, Author

Michael Garland, Illustrator

Holiday House, Nonfiction, July 1, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Vertebrates, Reptiles, Fish, Mammals, Birds, Amphibians, Animals, Rhyming text

Opening: “Vertebrates have spines. Elephants to pygmy wrasses, vertebrates are grouped by classes. Vertebrates have spines like you, mammals, fish and reptiles too!”

Synopsis:  Animal School begins with very detailed illustrations of the skeletons of five classifications of vertebrates with spines like  mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. Some walk on legs, while others swim, crawl, scamper or fly. Some breathe air while others live in water where oxygen flows through gills. With rhythmic text the author explores a subject many children will find fascinating.

I like this book because: it introduces children to the intriguing world of vertebrates. Michelle Lord’s knowledge of vertebrates is captured in her catchy and entertaining rhyming in each classification.  She provides the appealing facts about the special characteristics of each vertebrate classification: reptiles, fish, mammals (including humans), bird, amphibians, and animals.  Verses describe whether the vertebrae is cold-blooded or warm-blooded, scaly or furry,  hatched or birthed from an animal. Her language is understandable and kid-friendly. Michael Garland’s “digital woodcut” illustrations of the animals and reptiles add a dramatic touch that is eye-catching and suits the preferred natural habitat. The texture really adds realism to the story. His double-page spreads are simply stunning, complimenting the story. The cover is regal.

Favorite verses and illustrations:

Reptiles: “But alligators / raise their young. / Hatchlings ride on / Mother’s tongue. / Every noise / a reptile hears / through covered holes, / not floppy ears.”

Garland Gator6-7Compliments of Michael Garland

Fish: Underwater / fishes roam. / Rivers, lakes, or seas are home. / Oxygen flows/ through their gills./ Water passes/ through these frills. /Fish are cloaked / in flaky scales, / lacking hair or / furry tails.”

Garland Fish 8-9Compliments of Michael Garland

Resources: At the end of the book is a chart with all five classifications, their characteristics, some of the species, examples, an afterword about “invertebrates (spineless),” and suggested websites to check out. Use this book before you take your children on a visit to a zoo, aquarium or on a walk through the woods.  Visit Michelle Lord and Michael Garland’s websites to learn more about their books.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

How to Heal a Broken Wing

How to Heal a Broken Wing9780763639037_p0_v1_s260x420How to Heal a Broken Wing

Bob Graham, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, 2008

Suitable for Ages: 3-8

Themes: Birds, Compassion, Healing

Opening: “High above the city, no one heard the soft thud of feathers against glass.  No one saw the bird fall.  No one looked down…except Will.”

Synopsis:  When Will finds a bird with a broken wing lying on the pavement, he gently picks it up and takes it home to care for it.  His  parents help bandage the wing and Will  lovingly feeds and nurtures the bird back to health.  With rest and a little hope, the bird may fly again.

Why I like this book:  Bob Graham’s lyrical tory celebrates the compassion of a small boy for an injured bird.  Graham writes with such simplicity (text is under 75 words) and with double page spreads that show the story with contrasts and beautiful detail.  Many spreads have no words just rich illustrations done in pen, watercolor and chalk.   Children are loving by nature and like caring for injured animals.  They will enjoy pouring over the detail on each page to see if Will is able to save the bird. This is such a touching and uplifting story for children.  Bob Graham is a leading Australian author and illustrator recognized internationally for his work.

Resources:  Visit the Audubon website for activities and resources about birth watching, bird counting at home and at school.  You can even adopt a bird. They have a range of activities for all ages groups that fit the core curriculum.   Visit a pond to teach kids about water birds.  Observe migratory birds in the spring and autumn. Make bird houses, set up bird baths and make winter bird treats.

Every Friday authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  Although PPBF is on a summer break until September, you can still view a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Little Bird Lost

Little Bird Lost9781492762829_p0_v1_s260x420Little Bird Lost

Kate Larkinson, Author

Steve Larkinson, Photographer

CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes: Nature, Birds, Sibling Rivalry

Opening: “1..2..3 little birds but there should be more. Three baby birds in the nest but there should be four.”

Synopsis (Book Description) : One of the baby birds seems to be missing. His greedy siblings have pushed him out of view! A tale of sibling rivalry and their parents love all their offspring.

Why I like this book: I loved Kate Larkinson’s simplicity and rhyming text for young children. This is a charming story about nature, a mother bird feeding her young ones and sibling rivalry. According to the book, Steve Larkinson “saw the nest in the eaves of a bakery in south-west France,” and decided to capture the life of a family of swallows through his beautiful photography. This is the perfect spring read for beginning readers. They  will feel triumphant over mastering this beautiful book.  Make sure you check out Kate and Steve Larkinson’s website.

Resources: Walk around your house and yard and look for nests of birds.  You can watch the birds busily building nests right now. Bird watch and write down the variety of bird you see in your yard this spring.

There is a Goodreads Giveaway for a copy of this book at https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/83442-little-bird-lost-a-rhyming-picture-story  that ends March 24.

There is also a LibraryThing Giveaway for the ebook edition at http://www.librarything.com/er_list.php?program=giveaway&sort=enddate which expires on March 28.

Erik from This Kid Reviews Books, also reviewed Little Bird Lost last fall.  He has included some excellent activities for children that I won’t repeat.