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Scary Bird (Michel Streich, Scholastic)

A lively little book, Scary Bird puts diversity, adjustment and acceptance into an understandable parable for little listeners (though plenty of big listeners would also do well to pay attention to its message!) and it will sit well with other recent children’s books exploring similar themes. The birds in an aviary are fearful and unwelcoming when a new resident arrives: a tiny bird clearly anything but scary. But he’s something just as powerful: he’s different. Before long, the other birds—somewhat predictably, but that’s OK—learn that although he ‘doesn’t even chirp our language’, they can all still build a shared community. (It’s a slight shame that the new bird is lauded for learning the dominant language while the others only occasionally attempt his, yet happily listen to exotic tales of his culture.) Streich’s boisterous illustrations offer movement and emotion while keeping a simple, genial tone. The sketchy style echoes Chris McKimmie or even Quentin Blake, but sparer and more contained, pairing contentedly with the matter-of-fact attitude of the story. The analogy is not subtle, but that’s OK too. The expression is concrete and kids aged three and up will easily relate the story to their own lives while learning about important social and global issues. And watch what happens when a new ‘scary bird’ arrives …

Anica Boulanger-Mashberg is a freelance editor, writer and reviewer, and has worked as a bookseller at The Hobart Bookshop for over 10 years.


Category: Junior Reviews