Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How to Drive a Librarian Crazy

I don't know about anyone else out there, but there is almost nothing that irks me more than really falling in love with a book and not being able to hook my kids on it. Drives me up the freaking wall. I usually end up having to mutter under my breath that "right book for the right child at the right time" mantra that we librarians use to remind us that kids have their own taste and are in their own unique developmental space, both of which we've got to respect. However much it may floor me (I'm speaking as a parent here) that my otherwise perceptive children don't always appreciate the MASTERPIECES of literature that I expectantly offer them.

How to Heal a Broken Wing is, sadly, a case in point. I loved this book. Loved, loved, loved it. It's one of those perfectly executed picture books that don't just tell a story but illuminate it. The simple prose ("No one saw the bird fall. No one looked down...except Will.") is understated but direct: a bird will die unless someone helps it. And the person who open-heartedly chooses to see and to help is Will, a young boy, and his parents. With patience and gentleness, Will and his parents feed, water and house the broken bird until it is once again whole. And then they let it go.

The pictures are what really fill in the story and evoke our sympathy and joy. Will's face is so earnest throughout, and he is surrounded by rich warm colours, corresponding to his goodness of heart. (The unnoticing, uncaring grown-ups trudging past the wounded bird are all a dull grey). The smaller sequential pictures that show Will and his family caring for their new friend are full of detail and reward lingering. In certain scenes where Will is handling the bird he seem to be surrounded by a halo, like a modern, budding Saint Francis. I love how Will's whole family is so hands-on involved in the bird's healing and care, but how Will is clearly in the centre of the action. After all, it is really his empathy which has given him the eyes to see the distress of his fellow creature and the simple, childlike conviction that he must help.

However, I regret to report that this is definitely not the book to share with 5 year old boys who are currently enamoured of Rotten Ralph.

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