In this wordless story, a shy boy finds a winged mentor in a cheery bluebird. The bird helps the boy perk up after a rough day at school and then connects him to some friendly children at a sailboat pond. But when bullies kill the bird—a truly shocking moment—the story sheds its simple yearning and wishfulness (with the bird as a kind of feathered fairy godmother) and deepens into an eloquent affirmation of love, faith, and the persistence of goodness. Staake (Bugs Galore!) propels his story forward with steady assurance, using a largely gray palette, geometric shapes, and comics-style framing. He vividly evokes a Manhattanlike landscape that’s overwhelming, yet full of potential, and he gives full visual voice to the boy’s emotions; there are several moments when Staake stops the action and lets his audience savor how the bird has transformed the boy. It’s possible (though not necessary) to attach the suggestion of an afterlife to the final pages, but believers and skeptics alike will find something deeply impressive and moving in this work of a singular, fully committed talent. Ages 4–8. Agent: Gilliam Mackenzie, Gillian Mackenzie Agency. (Apr.)
Starred Review, Booklist, April 15, 2013:
"Staake works out an impressive range of emotion... Without use of a single word, this book raises all kinds of simple profundities for kids to question, ponder, imagine, and discuss."
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, February 25, 2013:
“…believers and skeptics alike will find something deeply impressive and moving in this work of a singular, fully committed talent.”
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2013:
“Like nothing you have seen before.
One little boy, one little bird and one big city come together in a wordless fable of friendship, school, loss and comfort. Readers see the bluebird first, following the boy as he walks to school. Like a guardian angel, the bird watches the boy, even while his classmates mock him. Soon, the bird and boy become friends, returning home from school together, playing hide-and-seek, stopping at a bodega and sailing a boat in a pond. A run-in with a group of thugs leads to the bird's demise. Blues and grays are the colors of this urban world, allowing Staake's design to tell the story. Horizontal and vertical panels are interspersed with full-page spreads, encouraging the reader to slow down and experience the story. Though the volume is wordless, there is some environmental text on the signs of the city, which points to how the boy might feel about his life. Each sign is nearly generic: Gotham Café, Circus, The Steadfast Independent Books. Color changes, from blue to near black to white to blue again, allow readers to feel every emotion, including the devastating climax and the begs-to-be-discussed ending, which is punctuated by eight birds of many colors escorting the boy and the bluebird into the clouds. Like nothing you have seen before. (Picture book. 6 & up)
Gr 2–5—Staake's ability to digitally compose and contrast shapes for a pleasing geometric balance, aesthetic effect, and narrative purpose has never been stronger than in this wordless title about a heroic bird. Readers follow its flight past a New York City skyline filled with cones, pyramids, and rectangular prisms. Vertical lines are punctuated with stylized circular trees, heads, iris shots, clocks, etc. The sky and bird are indeed blue, but the lonely boy with the large, round head is dark gray; shades of gray comprise much of his world. White and black, used symbolically, complete the palette. The warbler notices the boy with the downcast eyes being mocked as he enters school. Afterward, the two play hide-and-seek, share a cookie, sail a toy boat together-in short, they become friends. Tuned-in readers will note the dedication to Audubon, examples of his art, the clock brand "Icarus," and other subtle thematic supports. Conflict arises when they enter Central Park, which is ominously dark, and bullies attempt to steal the boat. When one of them hurls a stick, the bird blocks it and falls, lifeless. As the child cradles his friend, the background brightens and a brilliantly colored flock lifts the pair into the clouds, where the creature fades from view as the boy waves good-bye. With echoes of Disney-Pixar's Up and William Joyce's The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (S & S, 2012), this is an apt fable for our time as we seek to help children develop empathy, curb aggression, and sense hope.—Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library