Kevin Henkes' Birds
Illustrated by Laura Dronzek
Children's book review by Sarah Denslow
Birds is a great picture book to enjoy in the springtime. It contains colorful (but not overpowering) drawings and provides some very basic (but interesting!) information about birds in a slightly whimsical fashion.
Henkes uses the musings of a young girl looking at birds out the window to convey information about them. Birds, she tells us, can be big or little and can come in all different colors.
The narrator gives anecdotal examples in a conversational tone that teach about the behavior of birds: once she saw seven birds sitting on a telephone wire not moving until she looked away and then they were gone; if a group of birds sitting in a tree all fly away at the same time, it looks like the tree yelled “Surprise!”
This simple conversational style of discussing birds is more interesting and holds children’s attention longer that a book simply listing facts. Henkes also engages the imagination with the narrator’s questions about birds. (What would the sky look like if birds left marks with their tail feathers? Where do all the birds go when it rains?)
Henkes even dispels the somewhat disappointing thought that we humans can’t fly like birds. As the narrator points out, she can’t really fly, but she can sing, ending Birds on a satisfying note.
Overall the prose has a pleasantly soothing effect. The illustrations back up this feeling by being colorful while having a soft, relatively simple look that doesn’t overwhelm the senses. I particularly love the drawing of all the birds flying away from a tree at once.
We have a copy of Birds in both the toddler and preprimary classrooms at the school where I work; as both groups enjoy it, I’d recommend it for ages 2-5.
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