Willie Was Different

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Beloved American artist Norman Rockwell wrote and illustrated just one children's book, and now it's on the Dragonfly list! In a touching tale, believed to be autobiographical, an awkward young wood thrush leaves home in search of his own genius and discovers his talent for musical improvisation. But when his beautiful singing is put on display, Willie falls silent—until an old friend comes to his rescue, that is.

Realizing that he is different from other wood ...

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Overview

Beloved American artist Norman Rockwell wrote and illustrated just one children's book, and now it's on the Dragonfly list! In a touching tale, believed to be autobiographical, an awkward young wood thrush leaves home in search of his own genius and discovers his talent for musical improvisation. But when his beautiful singing is put on display, Willie falls silent—until an old friend comes to his rescue, that is.

Realizing that he is different from other wood thrushes, Willie sets out on his own and becomes famous when he creates his own songs to accompany a flautist who is his devoted friend.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Originally printed in McCall's in 1967, this publication of Rockwell's only story for children coincides with the 100th anniversary of the American illustrator's birth. The tale, said to be autobiographical, concerns a "gawky and pigeon-toed" wood thrush named Willie who has vague premonitions of his own genius. Willie flees his family-particularly his overbearing father-in order to find his talent. When Miss Polly, the town librarian, plays her flute at the window, Willie joins her in a duet and the two discover his gift: he can improvise. However, Willie's reputation for composing "cadenzas and trills inspired by his own moods" soon lands him in an aviary to be observed and studied. There the virtuoso loses his spirit: "Willie was proud to be different, to be a genius, but he did not want to be a celebrity." Miss Polly rescues him and the two continue their music-"Very softly, just for themselves." Rockwell's effusive color illustrations will warm new generations, while adult admirers will savor the presentation of Rockwellian faces and gestures in a new context. Ages 6-10. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
Willie, the wood thrush wanted to be different. Not content to repeat the usual wood thrush call, he created his own musical masterpieces. After being heard and appreciated by Miss Polly, the town librarian, she felt that she must take him to the National Aviary in Washington, D.C., so that others could hear his miraculous music. But, away from his familiar woods Willie realized that although he wanted to be different and creative, he did not really want to be famous. He was unable to sing, so Miss Polly took him back home. While the brief story is rather predictable, Rockwell's nostalgic and sometimes amusing paintings add greatly to this picture book's appeal.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-Tired of hearing about his father's expectations for him, Willie the wood thrush flies the coop and is soon drawn to the sound of Miss Polly's flute. As he accompanies her, he begins to experiment with variations on his wood-thrush theme. His fame as a composer spreads, and he is invited to grace the aviary at the National Ornithological Society in Washington, D.C. But celebrity status doesn't suit Willie, and Miss Polly takes him back home where both his health and his song are restored. A fascinating foreword traces the history, alteration, and variations of this, Rockwell's only story for children. His illustrations are, of course, classic, with all the detail and homey qualities one expects from the artist. However, the pictures are sparse, at times making the book look like an avian guidebook gone awry, and there is a vast amount of unused, glaring white space surrounding both text and illustrations. The text itself seems like the working outline it was originally meant to be; as such, it is both sketchy and choppy. As a story about friendship and individuality, this tale doesn't measure up to Leo Lionni's poet-mouse Frederick (Knopf, 1967) or of Peta Coplans's endearing gardener-dog, Dottie (Houghton, 1994). The ending, as well, is misleading for children. It tells readers that there is a ``Willie's Room'' in the museum in Washington, which in reality does not exist. The value of this book lies in the fact that it is indeed pure Rockwell.-Lisa Wu Stowe, Great Neck Library, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679882626
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 5/6/1997
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 27
  • Lexile: 800L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 10.09 (h) x 0.21 (d)

Meet the Author

American artist Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) is perhaps most famous for his cover illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post—322 covers in 47 years. His work still enjoys great popularity today.

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