FICTION

Birdsong

Greystone Kids. Sept. 2019. 48p. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781771644730.
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K-Gr 2–When a young girl moves to a new home in the country, her initial loneliness is soothed by a new friendship. It’s spring and she is packing up her home in the city by the sea and moving to a new house. Her new home in the country has two trees, snowdrops, creaky stairs, and a older neighbor named Agnes. When summer comes, the girl begins her friendship with Agnes, who shows her the garden and all her clay things, shaped like birds and flowers. She visits Agnes often and they become great friends, and teach each other much as the seasons change. After the winter, Agnes can’t get out as much and the little girl finds a way to bring the outside world to her. The story is made up of short scenes punctuated by chapter headings naming the changing seasons. This format provides a perfect backdrop to the growing friendship between Agnes and the young girl. In the summer, Agnes teaches the child about berries and plants; in the fall, they bury leaves in the soil to prepare it for spring and to feed the worms. The young girl learns about waxing and waning moons from Agnes and in turn she tells Agnes about the Cree seasons. This is a beautiful portrait of an intergenerational friendship where both parties have something to share and learn. Each episode is written in spare and poetic verse, with the small text placed carefully on each beautiful spread. Simple and elegantly composed, the digital illustrations highlight the soft fuzzy texture of the girl’s bird drawings and the hazy, winter air filled with snow. Small details abound, such as the crisp dark lines of the kitchen cabinets in an intimate kitchen scene that become fuzzy behind a cloud of steam rising from the pot of salmon stew. The Cree words used by the characters are given context within the text and a phonetic glossary at the beginning is a helpful tool for readers unfamiliar with the language.
VERDICT Simple and profound, this tender story is a reminder that finding a new friend can make a new place feel like home. Highly recommended for purchase.

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