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From Barnes & NobleA Los Angeles Times Book Review Best Children's Book of 2002
The Barnes & Noble Review
David Macaulay has a flair for deconstructing big ideas for children, as is evident in his bestselling books Building Big and The Way Things Work. Macaulay puts that talent to good use when he combines his love of majestic old buildings with a heartwarming relationship between an old craftsman and a wounded pigeon.
Angelo is restoring an old church in Rome, and in the course of his work, he discovers a pigeon perched on a ledge, unable to fly. He is annoyed at first, but he realizes he can't leave the helpless bird. He carries the bird home and makes it a little bed. He soon begins begins caring for it, naming it Sylvia and taking it to work and out to the country on weekends. When Sylvia is completely recovered, she flies away, though she returns every day to visit Angelo, both at work and at home.
Meanwhile, Angelo takes great pride and good care in reconstructing the beauty of the old church, and after two years, the work is almost complete. But Sylvia begins to notice that her friend looks haggard and worried. "This place has become your home," he tells her. "Where will you go when I'm gone?" He stays away from home for an entire night and returns in the morning, tired but content. He then falls asleep in his favorite chair, with Sylvia by his side. When he fails to show up for work, his assistants go to his house and find that he has died. His body is returned to the church for the funeral, and crowning the beautiful restoration work, high up near the roof, is Angelo's gift to Sylvia -- a nest made of stucco, "never to be swept away."
Macaulay surpasses the realm of the picture book, transforming a story with essentially weighty subject matter into a beautiful tale of life-affirming friendship. Readers will appreciate Angelo's true affection for Sylvia and as well as the pigeon's often carefree antics. The text sets a high standard, allowing young readers to explore new words and truly understand Angelo and Sylvia's friendship.
Macaulay's tender illustrations complement his gentle story. The watercolors gracefully convey Italy's warm sun, and the beauty and charm of Rome is apparent everywhere. His inspired attention to detail is evocative -- the little bed Angelo makes for Sylvia allows the reader to appreciate the craftsman's warm heart. Macaulay's use of perspective shows us the world from both Angelo's and Sylvia's points of view -- from the ground and from the air -- and the red stucco bird's nest, nestled between two stone cherubs atop the church, is a heartwarming and exquisite sight.
Teaching the importance of loyalty and the magic of unlikely companions, this extraordinary tale will amaze readers of all ages. Macaulay's outstanding creation is a lesson in life, food for the soul, and a sheer pleasure. (Amy Barkat)