Helen’s Birds

Groundwood/House of Anansi/. Sept. 2019. 44p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781773060385.
Gr 4-6–In this wordless graphic novel, a young girl named Saanvi experiences the loss of her elderly neighbor and friend, Helen. Readers see the friendship develop over the years, since Saanvi was a small child. Often, the girl helps Helen feed the different birds that visit Helen’s yard. One night, Saanvi is awakened by red lights as Helen is taken away in an ambulance. When Helen does not return, Saanvi grieves, watching as the woman’s house is put up for sale and eventually demolished. Noticing a nest in the one last tree standing in Helen’s yard, Saanvi honors her friend’s memory by constructing bird feeders and baths for her own home. Casson’s artwork is quietly expressive, layering colored pencil and pastels atop Photoshop illustrations in a palette of muted reds, yellows, greens, and blues. Images of Helen’s deserted property evoke Saanvi’s grief as the season changes to winter and snow blankets the neighborhood. A rising springtime sun and the floating musical notes of chirping birds make Saanvi feel close to her friend once more.
VERDICT A moving story of friendship and grief, this book is a silent treasure for upper elementary and middle grade collections.

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