November 25, 2010
Elsie’s Bird by Jane Yolen
by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by David Small
AR 4. 3
Elsie loves everything about life in Boston — the calls of the fish merchants, the screams of the gulls, skipping rope with her friends, horses hooves on cobble stones and the songs of the many birds. Even after Mama dies, Elsie loves Boston but Boston holds too much sadness for Papa. When Papa decides he has to find some place he can be happy, Elsie doesn’t hesitate. She’s already lost one parent. No way is Papa heading to Nebraska without her.
But Nebraska isn’t Boston and Elsie can’t bring herself to leave the confines of their little dugout house. The prairie is just too big and too quiet, so quiet you can hear the wind blowing in the grass. Inside is filled with the songs of her beloved canary Timmy Tune —
until the day Timmy flies out of his cage and into the wide open prairie.
Facing a loss she might be able to prevent, Elsie finds the courage to go after her beloved pet and finds a whole word outside the dugout door.
Yolen has created an amazing story of love and loss, of fear and courage, of home and the larger world. Small’s art work captures an amazing range of emotion on the faces of Elsie, her father, and her grandparents. He uses color to mirror Elsie’s growing love of the prairie — grey when she is scared to a variety of greens and yellows as her heart is opened.
As much as I love many of Yolen’s books, I have to admit that I was first drawn in by Small’s art work. His simple lines and use of color in some ways resemble comic book art — expressing so much in such a simple form.
Whether your young reader loves the prairie, a particular bird or is having trouble facing a new challenge or change, this gentle story is sure to find a place next to your reading chair and in your heart.