Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Dead Bird

The Dead Bird by the beloved Margaret Wise Brown (author of Goodnight Moon), was originally written in 1938, with text renewal in 1965. Reissued in 2016 with contemporary illustrations by Christian Robinson (award-winning illustrator of Last Stop on Market Street, Leo: a Ghost Story, and Gaston, to name a few), this book tells a sweet story of children who find a dead bird in the park.

The text and story in this book is simple and relatable. I'm sure most of us have had the experience of coming upon a dead animal, and the story is told by someone with an obvious grasp of how children think and process.

Wise Brown gently explains what happens when something living has died, and what people do to honor someone's passing. The things that the children do in the book are playful and sweet -- and also realistic ("And every day, until they forgot, they went and sang to their little dead bird and put fresh flowers on his grave.").

Truly as powerful as the text in this book are the illustrations. Robinson's simple, whimsical and tender pictures depict the children as truly childlike. They have a kite, and a dog, and some costumes, and their lives are pure and innocent. They learn a tough lesson when they encounter death, and Robinson shows their innocence and concern. Even their dog companion shows sensitivity to what is going on. But just as children do, they are able to be distracted by play and joy in the midst of a somber situation.

I think it is the combination of text and illustration in this book that so powerfully hit me. The simplicity and subject of the text set a solemn mood, but the colorful, playful illustrations help to bring levity. And for reading this with children, that is so very important. I highly recommend reading this visually appealing, gentle approach to dealing with death with your children. 


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