Today is International Dot Day, a world-wide celebration of creativity inspired by Peter H. Reynold’s classic picture book, The Dot, that invites readers to “make your mark, and see where it takes you.”
I chose today’s Perfect Picture Book because I love the themes and the illustrations, because the main character learns to be “himself”, and also because its author/illustrator hails from a wonderfully-creative part of the world about which many readers in the US know little about. For me, the author/illustrator makes her mark with today’s Perfect Picture Book:
Title: A Bird Like Himself
Written & Illustrated By: Anahita Teymorian (Taymourian)
Translated By: Azita Rassi
Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd./2015
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: growing up; foster families; becoming yourself; finding love; #ReadYourWorld
One day something pale and oval was left all on its own and with nobody to look after it. The oval thing was warm, and it rocked a little back and forth before suddenly…CRACK! Out of the egg came a fat little chick.
Brief Synopsis: A menagerie of animals looks after a baby bird that is born alone in their midst, but none of the animals knows how to teach “Baby” to fly.
Links to Resources:
- The Cornell Lab of Ornithology publishes educator resources about birds;
- Learn about foster families;
- Discover more about Iran, where the author/illustrator lives.
Why I Like this Book:
A Bird Like Himself is a deceptively simple, gorgeously illustrated, multi-layered picture book that’s fun to read, and reread. I find more clues to the ending each time I reread it! Baby, the bird that hatches from an abandoned egg, is raised by a group of loving animals that functions like a foster family. The ways they try to care for Baby and teach him to fly are hilarious! But until he finds a fellow bird, and strikes up a friendship with her, he is unable to fly and totally be himself. In a funny, gentle way, A Bird Like Himself shows children that we can learn from many people and many experiences, but until we’re true to ourselves, we won’t be complete. It shows adults that we, as caregivers, need to let children experience life and learn on their own.
The illustrations in A Bird Like Himself look as if they are telling a story within a story. There is no natural background to the illustrations, there is a limited palette, and there is a repeated checkerboard pattern that, in the end, ties everything together.
A Note about Craft:
As writers, we’re often instructed to be specific, but leave room for the illustrations. Teymorian includes several scenes with sparse text illuminated by wonderful illustrations. For instance, Teymorian writes, “They tried this…and this.” Illustrations show an elephant trying to rock Baby on tusks and Baby perched in a loop of a snake or giraffe neck. Similarly, “I’m hungry,” precedes an amusing illustration of Baby scratching his head as he stares at a picnic that may appeal to other animals, but probably not him.
Although the story seemingly occurs in a forest or on a farm (we’re never sure exactly where), Teymorian includes several details that will cause older readers to question the location. It isn’t until the end that we learn where the story has occurred. I think this appeals to young children, as they don’t question finding a cow living with an elephant, for instance, or repeated checkerboard motifs that don’t seem to have anything to do with animals or birds at all (or do they?).
Finally, Teymorian addresses the reader in several instances with open-ended questions, such as “So guess what Baby did?” This helps draw the reader into the story, I believe, and creates instances during group readings to pause and engage with young listeners.
Read reviews and interviews with Teymorian here.
I mentioned above that I chose today’s Perfect Picture Book because of the creativity on display. For another wonderful example of creativity, and a book, I’d argue, should also be celebrated world-wide, see When I Coloured in the World, which I reviewed in April.
Discover more books published by Tiny Owl Publishing, “an independent publishing company committed to producing beautiful, original books for children”, founded on the “belief that stories act as bridges – providing pathways to new experiences whilst connecting us to here and there” and publishing a number of books by Iranian authors and illustrators. Tiny Owl is open to submissions now through 31 October 2017 for authors and illustrators with stories and illustrations on the “theme of finding hope in a scary world.”
While not currently available in US book shops, A Bird Like Himself is available through the Book Depository, which ships for free to the US.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!