How to Make a Bird (Meg McKinlay, illus by Matt Ottley, Walker Books)
For those children who revel in the natural environment, particularly fossils and bones, How to Make a Bird is a delight. According to the young girl protagonist, you will need a lot of tiny hollow bones, lighter than you’d think (you’d hardly feel them when they rest in your palm). After all, the lighter they are, the better they become airborne. The next thing is to lay them out, maybe in arrangements that fit ‘the proud arch of an eagle’ or perhaps ‘the soft curve of a sparrow’. Then there’s the gathering of feathers to dress the naked form, of course. (One needs to save the longest for the wings and tail.) It’s the individual finishing touches to beak and eyes that will make the bird idiosyncratically expressive. And afterwards, when all is done? Oh, that’s when the magic happens. Matt Ottley’s illustrations are sunlit, expansive and ethereal. There is tranquility and sophistication in the way he balances air, sky and sun. This picture book is full of wonder and is excellent for preschoolers, particularly those who love to collect tiny bones and feathers in their beachcombing adventures.
Thuy On is a freelance arts journalist and reviewer, and the books editor of the Big Issue.