How to Heal a Broken Wing
by Bob Graham

Bob Graham's How to Heal a Broken Wing

Children's book review by Suzanne Holland

Ages 4-8

How fortunate for us to be witness to the birth of a classic! How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham was introduced about one year ago to the fans of this Australian artist. Published by Candlewick Press, this is a modern fable about one boy’s efforts to heal a bird, and in so doing, heal our world.

This large picture book starts off with the captivating line “High above the city, no one heard the soft thud of feathers against glass.” Immediately, one’s eyes travel the page, looking for the tragic bird. There it is, high above the gray city, falling in front of the mirrored skyscraper! The perspective of the buildings looming over a tiny clock tower heightens the impact of that fall.

The following pages show us, more than tell us, of the callousness of the pedestrians. Gray person after gray person walk by the fallen pigeon, none bothering to even stoop and check. Graham deftly colors this heartless scene with grays, tans and black.

Then, rising slowly to the top of the subway escalator, comes our little hero Will.

Will is literally the only bright spot. His red jacket and blue pants are a focal point as he tugs his mother to stop and look at the bird. Contrasting with the smaller frames of drawings on previous pages, the wordless depiction of Will gently picking up the bird is a colorful, double page portrait of tenderness.

Will and his somewhat befuddled mother pack the bird and take it home to an equally head scratching puzzled dad. However, the little family works together to bandage the wing, and fashion a cozy nest for it.

The background of this city has been thought by many to reference New York 9/11. The television set in the living room does depict three planes over a city skyline; the newspaper lining the nest declares “Conflict” and shows a tank. As a fable, the book is meant to allude to an event; certainly, we are to conclude the world can be a hard and heartless place. I am not sure how to interpret the calendar marking April 1. April Fools?

Is the world foolish, and Will the only truly intelligent person? It certainly makes for a great discussion point!

Over the course of a month, nicely conveyed by the phases of the moon, the little bird regains its strength, and is ready to rejoin the world. Will and his parents pack it up and return to the square. Will even remembers to grab the single feather the bird had lost.

Ever so carefully, Will opens his hands and in the yellow glow surrounding them, the bird takes flight.

“With rest, time and hope, a bird can fly again”. This is most emphatically a message for our times.

Although the nature of How to Heal a Broken Wing can be considered serious, it is also a simple reminder of how one small person can make a difference in the world.

Because of the sparse language, it may be difficult for a classroom read aloud, but it is just right for small groups or one on one. Children will relate to the natural world of small animals and boo-boos.

How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham is a simple little story with a powerful message meant for children and grownups alike!

Read more of Suzanne's reviews.

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