Each week we review some of the books we’ve been reading with Squirm. This week, we’re looking at books with birds in them.
Peggy by Anna Walker
Peggy is a hen with a very normal kind of life. Every day, she had breakfast, played and watched the pigeons. Then one day, a big gust of wind came by, lifted Peggy up and landed her right in the middle of the city. From here, we watch as Peggy makes herself comfortable in the city, before realising that she’d really, rather go home.
This is a beautifully simple book, with the story being told through pictures as much as words. Peggy is a well-defined character, particularly through a few comic-style pictures. It’s very easy to become involved in her story and want to know what will happen next and if she’ll ever get home. The ending wraps up a little neatly for my liking, but it is fun to see how Peggy’s life changes after her excursion.
With this book, it would be really fun to think about what might happen if Peggy was blown into your city or your neighbourhood. What would she do? Where would she go? Where would she sit? And how would she get home again. You could tell this story verbally, or create your own book using pictures or photos of your local area. You could also learn more about chickens and pigeons (the main birds in this book). There’s two double pages in the book which tell us more about the story through a collage of Polaroid style illustrations. You could try telling stories by taking photos and using a photo editing program to put it all together.
Little Penguin: The Life of Eudyptula Minor by Josie Montano and Matt Ottley
This was a funny, but rather strange book. When you took the text alone, it told the story of Eudyptula – a little penguin – following him through his life. It’s a bit twee and rather unforgettable. But then there’s the pictures, which show Eudyptula like a human, dressing up each day and taking a boat out to see to work. Living in apartment style buildings and avoiding foxes in fast cars on the walk home from work. It’s very strange, and I’m not really sure how I feel about the book as a whole.
Of course, it makes a perfect introduction to penguins, and you could use it while learning about Antarctica. It would also be great to use with a child who’s into the David Attenborough style wildlife documentaries. You could attempt to write your own documentary with your child, or you could narrate every day events, documentary style (I once did this with Squirm’s nappy change. It amused me, if nothing else). Another thing you could try to do, if to write a story, but subvert it with pictures that tell more of the story than you get in the words.
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
This book was first published in 1941, but it’s still a fabulous read. Two ducks, Mr and Mrs Mallard were looking for a safe place to live so that Mrs Mallard could lay her eggs. They find a lovely park, but are concerned by how busy it is. So they fly out to an island, and swim back to the riverbank where they make friends with a policeman. Of course, this is until Mrs Mallard lays her eggs and has ducklings to bring up. One day, Mr Mallard decides to take off for a while, and Mrs Mallard needs to take the ducklings through the busy Boston streets to meet up with him in the park.
Obviously, Mrs Mallard is the hero of this book, rounding up Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and Quack and getting them safely to the park. But all in all, this is a sweet story of people going out of their way to help the smaller creatures around them. The book is illustrated with simple line drawings, but the characters really seem to come alive, even if we only see them on one page.
You could use this book as an introduction to learning about ducks, but you could also get some pretty cool map lessons out of it. You could trace their path around a map of Boston, look at how maps change over time (try and find old and new maps for your city). You could map out a path for the ducks to take around your neighbourhood or use Google Street View to see what the ducks might see if they were to take the same trip today. You could use the book as an introduction to learning more about Boston (which is on my dream list of cities to visit), and look at how Boston celebrates the story – including the duck sculpture.
What’s your favourite book with birds in it?