The cover of this picture book, featuring a soft pencil sketch of a small person wearing an enormous bird costume, immediately invites curiosity; the juxtaposition of scale is so whimsical and poignant that one wonders what story this character has to tell. The Day I Became a Bird (Kids Can, $16.95) reveals itself to be a tale of first love: our young protagonist falls for classmate Sylvia, “who only has eyes for birds.” He constructs his giant costume to win her attention—and, though we see the small indignities that befall him, our hero is focused solely on catching Sylvia’s eye. Guridi’s spare drawings, in which the book’s brown-egg-colored pages wonderfully offset the white highlights of the bird costume’s eyes and Sylvia’s chalk sketches, perfectly complement French author Ingrid Chabbert’s sweet, simply told romance. Ages 5-8.
Author/illustrator Francesca Sanna has succeeded in an intricate balancing act, creating a heartfelt, beautifully illustrated fable about a refugee family’s harrowing flight. The Journey (Flying Eye, $17.95) that takes two children and their widowed mother step by dangerous step away from war—and home— brings them closer to a more peaceful land, but walls and security guards stand in their way. Two-page spreads propel the story forward with cinematic force, while dramatic turns of the page show sudden losses and dangers as well as a hopeful ending. Sanna’s vividly colored illustrations, which include hidden animal witnesses, are full of magic and help to tell an all-too-timely story with remarkable sensitivity. Ages 7-10.
Master illustrator Shaun Tan (The Arrival) has now turned to sculpture to capture the essence of 75 of the Grimms’ most famous fairy tales. The photographed tableaux in The Singing Bones (Arthur A. Levine, $24.99) harken back to the campfires and hearths where tales were once told and retold. Inspired by Inuit and pre-Columbian art, Tan’s small sculptures are spooky, wondrous, and whimsical. As Neil Gaiman notes in his foreword, these talismanic objects have a tactile quality; they seem to invite the reader to reach through the page and touch them. Excerpts from the Grimms’ tales translated by Jack Zipes accompany each tableau and are summarized in a paragraph at the end of the book. Ages 12 and up.