Ostrich and Lark

Ostrich and Lark

by Marilyn Nelson
     
 

Ostrich and Lark spend their days on the grasslands of southern Africa surrounded by a chorus of birdsong. From his perch in a tree Lark joins the chorus, while below Ostrich is silent. Then comes the joyful day when Ostrich finds his voice. This picture book about an unlikely friendship is the result of collaboration between the award-winning poet Marilyn Nelson

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Overview

Ostrich and Lark spend their days on the grasslands of southern Africa surrounded by a chorus of birdsong. From his perch in a tree Lark joins the chorus, while below Ostrich is silent. Then comes the joyful day when Ostrich finds his voice. This picture book about an unlikely friendship is the result of collaboration between the award-winning poet Marilyn Nelson and the San artists of Botswana. The story, which captures the feel of a traditional African folktale, is brought to life with vibrant illustrations inspired by the ancient rock paintings of the San people’s ancestors.
The author’s proceeds from this book will be used to support the San artists of the Kuru Art Project in Botswana.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The bold, thickly stroked paintings of Kalahari Desert birds and trees that illustrate Nelson's story were created by members of the indigenous !Kung San, for whom, Nelson explains, making and selling art represents a way both to continue their traditions and to subsist. The story contrasts noisy Lark, who sings "the first song of the day, perched tall, slender, and tawny brown on a termite castle or a low branch of a camel thorn tree," and who goes on singing all day long, with silent Ostrich. Ostrich never sings—that is, ?until one night he booms, "Twoo-woo-wooot!" in a burst of self-declaration. The paintings don't directly reflect the emotions expressed in the story; they're static images with a notably fine sense of balance and composition, some as intricate as Persian rugs. Nelson's (Snook Alone) lyrical writing gives a vivid sense of life in the desert: "ver the cicada's drone, a drizzle of buzzings fell, and a downpour of birdsong." A valuable starting point for classroom discussions about Africa, ecosystems, and finding one's voice. Ages 4–8. Agent: Regina Brooks, Serendipity Literary Agency. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Jean Boreen
This beautiful picture book, with its focus on friendship and the familiar, introduces younger readers to Lark and Ostrich, friends who follow the same routine and participate in the same activities every day. But one day, Ostrich, who has been dreaming of taking chances, decides to take one: for the first time he allows his voice to boom out in the world, and what a voice Ostrich has. The reaction of the others shows the interconnectivity of life in the wild even as it shows how friends support but can still be surprised by each other. The illustrations, created by the !Kung San artists of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, are gorgeous; vivid paintings showing the animals featured in the text against the vibrant backdrop of the Botswana homeland. Proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the Kuru Art project, which is part of a group of organizations working to support training programs in Botswana. This is an absolutely fantastic book, both for its text and its illustrations. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3—Ostrich and Lark go for a walk every morning. Ostrich listens to Lark and the other birds sing, but stays silent himself. Then one night he dreams of singing, of flying, and of spring. The next day, as evening falls, he finally finds his own voice. Nelson's language is lyrical and has the rhythm of an old folktale. The illustrations are done by six artists from Botswana. Each picture is signed, making it possible to compare and contrast their work. They all use a similar palette of bright oranges, reds, blues, and greens and all use bold, simple lines and shapes to create the animals and scenery. The images have a vitality and charm that reinforce the traditional feel of the text. Borders and backgrounds further unify the book's appearance. An opening note tells about the artists and mentions that proceeds from the book go to aid the native peoples of Southern Africa. This book is simpler than Baba Diakité's Mee-An and the Magic Serpent (Groundwood, 2007), but both books could be used in the curriculum as appealing examples of current African art and culture.—Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT
Kirkus Reviews
When does an ostrich come into his own? Ostrich and Lark, two bosom buddies, travel through the Kalahari Desert, interacting with the birds, insects and animals of the southern African veld. Each one makes its individual sound, together singing "their rain-shower jazz." That is, everyone except Ostrich. But as the minimal story ends, Ostrich finally booms out a "TWOO-WOO-WOOOT." It is a sound "part lion's roar, / part foghorn, / part old man trumpeting into his handkerchief." The language is spare, like the land it describes. It has the flavor of folklore, but this is an original story that Nelson has created to complement the paintings made by !Kung San people participating in the Kuru Art Project of Botswana. The San people were traditional hunter-gatherers, but development has forced them into the modern economy. The author's royalties will go to the Project, part of an income-generating group of programs. The cause is worthy, and the vibrantly colored, naive oil paintings, bordered uniformly with a broad stripe with a zigzag line in a contrasting hue, are bold and attractive. The message is clear: Ostrich finds "his voice at last, / his own beauty, / his big, terrific self." However, there is no precipitating reason for this change. Does his voice come to him as a matter of maturity? While the story is not fully satisfying, the book deserves an audience for its successful portrayal of the natural world of the Kalahari. Eye-catching and lyrical. (Picture book. 4-8)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590787021
Publisher:
Highlights Press
Publication date:
09/01/2012
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
8.70(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.40(d)
Lexile:
AD790L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author


Marilyn Nelson is the author of The Freedom Business, Fortune, and Carver: A Life in Poems, among other titles. She is a National Book Award finalist, a Newbery Honor Book winner, and a Boston Globe--Horn Book award winner. She lives in East Haddam, Connecticut.

The San were the first people of southern Africa. Their way of life is documented in rock paintings that date back thousands of years. The San Artists are a part of the Kuru Art Project in Botswana, an association formed in 1990 as part of a family of organizations dedicated to empowering the San with cultural revival and modern survival techniques. The artists create contemporary art, with no formal art lessons to influence their own innate abilities, using different techniques: linocuts, lithographs, oil on canvas, and more.

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