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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ten Birds Meet a Monster, written and illustrated by Cybele Young. Kids Can Press, 2013. $18.95 ages 5 and up

"The fifth bird,
always diligent,
joined in.
Together they became
a Bristling Fang-Mangler.
But the monster
didn't seem to care."

This is the second counting book that Canadian artist Cybele Young has created about a flock of  birds. Equally as innovative and beautifully drawn as the first one, called simply Ten Birds (Kids Can, 2011), perhaps this one will also be in the running for the Governor General's Award for Illustration. The first was the winner in 2011.

It promises to engage readers fully with its incredibly detailed images of birds caught up in an adventure with a perceived monster. Their playthings are dress-up clothing, exactly what so many children look to when they want to disguise themselves for a hazardous undertaking. In this case, the birds are frightened by a shadowy monster in the next room, and must use what is at hand to try to scare it away. The first bird initiates the action:

"The first bird, always inventive,
became a Vicious Polka-dactyl.
But the monster didn't budge."

Perhaps you can imagine what that dressed-up bird might look like from its descriptive name. They are some dinosaurs you want to meet! Each successive bird does its level best to add to the power and size of the dashing defender. As the ever-growing brute gains girth and ferocity, the monster next door remains unfazed. What will it take to chase him away?

Luckily for all, the tenth bird has little patience left by the time they get to him. He is a wandering sort, and soon finds himself in close proximity with the offensive creature. Aha, the problem is quickly solved!

The language chosen for the telling is spot-on. Again, Ms. Young makes such careful choices for her descriptions of the ever-changing bird monster. It's a perfect book to read without showing the artwork the first time around; let your listeners try to imagine what she is so deliciously describing.
Her pencil and ink visuals are filled with detail and expression. Young readers are sure to notice the dismay the birds are feeling as the monster refuses to react to their threat. And don't miss out on how cleverly she displays each of the numbers on the facing pages. Beautifully designed and sure to capture rapt attention, this is a book that will be shared many times over.


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