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Monday, October 15, 2012

A Home for Bird, written and illustrated by Philip C. Stead. A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Book Press, Macmillan. Raincoast Books, 2012. $18.99 ages 3 and up

"Vernon showed Bird
the river...
and the forest.
He took Bird foraging...
and cloud watching, too.
But Bird said nothing.
"I am worried that Bird
is not happy," said Vernon.
"Perhaps he is lost," said

Would that we all had friends like Vernon! If you do, hold them tightly to your heart and never let them go...I speak from experience and am grateful every day for the very special people who share my life.

Vernon is a foraging toad. He loves to spend his days looking for things of particular interest. When he spies Bird, he wants to help. He asks helpful questions; Bird offers nothing to the conversation. Not wanting to leave him alone, Vernon takes Bird under his 'wing' and introduces him to his friends.  Bird remains unresponsive.

Vernon sets out with Bird to help him find his home. Off they go on thier quest, searching for a place that will offer lodging and happiness for his new friend. He knows that Bird will let him know when they find the right place. Indeed, he does!

Oh, so charming! Philip Stead knows how to tell a story...and he does it incredibly well in both words and illustrations. I can't wait to share this with a roomful of teachers on Friday morning. It is a lovely readaloud. I know, I have read it aloud to myself four times already.

The illustrations are a visual delight, so full of engaging images that I have pored over them again and again. They incorporate light, scribbles, overlaid color, white space, and appear tousled, in keeping with Vernon and his way of life. It was not a quick and easy artistic process as Philip Stead explains:

"All that was left for me to do was to decide on an art style. My previous two books were done in collage, a very labor intensive, multilayered process. I love working that way, but the style just didn’t feel right for the characters or the setting in A Home for Bird. In the end, I settled on a style and materials that I was almost completely unfamiliar with…water-soluble crayon and gouache.

I kicked myself many times over the next year for having made the decision to use these materials. Working with crayon might sound fun but, well, you can’t erase when you mess up. I’ve never had to tear up and throw away so much artwork. It is an odd and uncomfortable feeling to be learning how to use materials while working on a project that’s going to be published (not to mention reviewed and critiqued)."

No wonder it has such a marvelous result! His perseverence has definitely paid off in a story that will forever have its place on my 'keepers' shelf. Now, you must get out and find a copy for your family and your classroom!

For a more in-depth look at Philip Stead's work, please visit Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast:  It is an quite an astonishing and informative post.

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