Title: A Home for Bird
Author/Illustrator: Philip C. Stead
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Word Count: 383
When the main reason that I keep reading a book is the desire to know WHAT is going to happen, or whether or not the main character is going to be successful at what they are attempting to DO, that’s when I know that what’s keeping me engaged is the plot. That’s how I felt about A Home for Bird. In this delightful story, Vernon, a frog, is determined to help Bird, who he finds one day while he’s out foraging. Their first meeting looks like this:
“Are you okay?” asked Vernon.
Bird said nothing.
“Are you lost?”
Bird said nothing.
Here we see Vernon doing his best to get Bird to talk so that he can help him; but Bird isn’t making it easy on him. What will Vernon do next? In this case, he introduces Bird to his friends Skunk and Porcupine thinking that might get him talking, but again nothing. So:
Vernon showed Bird the river. . .
and the forest.
He took Bird foraging. . .
and cloud watching too.
But Bird said nothing.
When Porcupine suggests that Bird’s unusual silence may be due to the fact that he misses home, Vernon readies a boat and sets out into the great unknown to help Bird find his home.
Vernon showed Bird many different places to live.
“Is this your home?” he asked Bird.
“How about here?” . . .
Vernon sighed. “Bird will speak up when we find the right home.”
But no matter how many places they tried, Bird said nothing.
And Vernon was sad.
As I read the passage above, I’m asking myself, “What’s going to happen next? Will Bird ever get home? What else can Vernon try?” In this case, since the boat failed, Vernon decides to follow the wind, making an improvisational hot air balloon for he and Bird.
After a long journey, Vernon is tired and decides that they should stop for the night. It appears that this stop is only going to put them back further in their journey; however, it turns out to be the answer to Vernon’s long search. I don’t want to give away the ending because it really is a delightful surprise.
In addition to the plot element I have already described, there is a beautiful character relationship between Vernon and Bird. Vernon is tender and sweet and always making allowances for Bird’s strange behavior, or lack thereof. He’s the kind of friend that anyone would hope for — someone that would love you and make excuses for you on even your worst day. The world is not always a very kind place to those who are different or who don’t conform to “normal” patterns of behavior. So to me, the way Vernon treats Bird is a good model for showing kindness to someone who is different or whose behavior we might not fully understand.
Lastly, I love the illustration style used in this book. It appears to have been done using crayon and is purposely “rough” in some places squiggles depict leaves on trees and broad crayon strokes color the sky and serve as porcupine’s quills. This adds to the whimsy of the story, and I believe makes it something that children can not only connect with, but also aspire to.