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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

George Flies South, written and illustrated by Simon James. Candlewick, Random House. 2011. $19.00 ages 3 and up

"But George's mom was too far away.

She couldn't hear him calling.

When she flew back, George and his nest were gone!

"George! George!" she cried."

 If we believe the hype, our job as parents is to 'give them wings so they can fly!' In this case, George has the wings; he is just not inclined to take to the sky and use them. He rather likes his nest, and its comfort and safety.

A nest, however, can only be safe for so long. George makes that discovery one cool autumn day while his mom is off in search of food for her fledgling. Fall winds are not uncommon and while George awaits his mom's return, a gust sweeps him from his branch and takes him on his first flight. He is plenty excited and content that his nest is his 'plane'. Mom arrives to find him missing, and is frantic to find him.

It isn't long before she spots him atop a nearby car. As the car pulls away from the curb, George is a reluctant passenger, and wonders aloud if he is headed south. Mom is not far behind, longing to catch hold of her son and bring him to safety. After an eventful day and a number of resting spots, George settles atop a new, tall building for the night. It makes him a 'sitting duck' for a curious cat. His luck holds, the cat is foiled and George and his nest take a tumble from the skyscraper.

As they go, the nest collapses and George is left to try what he is meant to!

So much fun for young readers who are busily watching for signs of fall, and hearing the geese honk their way overhead on their annual trek to warmer climes. George is a hesitant migrant, enjoying the amenites of the city and his doting mother.  

There is tension in the story; but Simon James' lovely watercolor illustrations add the warmth needed to ensure his readers that all will be well, despite the many mishaps. I have always  loved his gentle, charming work and was delighted to see this new book. He uses full page spreads and panelled images to move the story along, always keeping George in sight. I love his changing perspectives, truly giving us a 'bird's-eye view' of some of the action.

Of the idea for this book he says:
”This story began when I was in France, sitting outside a cafe.

On the other side of the street was a row of trees, one of them had a nest in it.
I wondered what would happen if the nest with a small bird inside, slipped out
of the tree and fell on to the roof of a parked car.
Then I wondered what might happen if someone
got in the car and drove away with the nest and the small bird still on the roof.
I made a little series of pictures depicting all this at the time.
Years later, I came across these drawings again and decided to develop them into a story.”

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