CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 5 . . . .October 27, 2006
Veronika Martenova Charles. Illustrated by Annouchka Gravel Galouchko & Stéphan Daigle.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2006.
32 pp., cloth, $22.99.
Noor Nobi-Juvenile fiction.
Wild bird trade-Juvenile fiction.
Calcutta (India)-Juvenile fiction.
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.
Review by Ellie Contursi.
Noor Nobi lived in the big bustling city of Calcutta. In the little laneways among the crumbling houses, the air hung heavy with heat and hummed with the sound of sewing machines. The sun-scorched ground was littered with mango pits, melon rinds, black banana peels - and with scraps of colourful fabric and thread. Many tailors worked there. Just like his father and grandfather, Noor Nobi labored every day, sewing baby clothes.
Sometimes while he sewed, birds waited for bits of thread. Noor Nobi made sure to drop a few scraps now and then so they could weave them into their nests. Noor Nobi enjoyed his work, but more than anything, he loved his three children.
Bright, colourful illustrations and smooth, soothing language tell the story of Noor Nobi, a man of compassion and of selflessness. The story in this lovely picture book takes place in Calcutta, India, amongst the hustle and bustle and heat of everyday life. Noor Nobi works hard, sewing baby clothes. He lives a simple life and loves his children dearly, labouring seven days a week to feed and house his family. One day, a tragic accident takes his children from him. Noor Nobi can do nothing but live and breath his despair. Even the birds who once surrounded him while he worked, waiting for scraps of thread, no longer come to him. His sewing machine remains quiet and still. One day, he goes out and wanders the streets in the intense heat. Noor Nobi hears nothing, feels nothing and sees nothing.
Later, he finds himself at a large outdoor market, and only when he sees cages and cages filled with birds does he stop to look. He pities these poor creatures who once possessed freedom and were now despairing. For the first time in days, Noor Nobi thinks of his children. He tells himself that he can not bring back his loved ones, but he can help these poor birds with their pain.
He then buys a bird from the vendor and sets it free. When Noor Nobi watches the bird take flight, he thinks of his children again, and his heart is a little less heavy. Once again, Noor Nobi works hard for days, sewing dresses for babies. On Monday morning, he walks to the market and seeks out the bird vendor. He waits until the market is about to close so that he can barter for lower prices. The only birds left are small and sickly ones. Noor Nobi buys as many as he can, takes them home and nurses them back to health. When they are well enough, he takes them to the banyan tree and releases them one at a time. Finally, as he watches them fly away, he begins to cry. Noor Nobi continues to work hard six days a week. On the seventh day, he becomes the Birdman. People come each week to see what takes place under the banyan tree. Each week, the song of thousands of freed birds grows stronger thanks to Noor Nobi, the Birdman.
The touching story of Noor Nobi is based upon the real man from Calcutta. As the story unfolds, the reader cannot help being touched by this man's pain and the strength it takes him to move on and continue living his life. Noor Nobi's compassion for other creatures is clear, and the illustrations vividly depict this tale of sadness, hope and renewal. There is a double page illustration without words that falls in the center of the picture book. It is stunning. The author also includes several pages at the end, giving more details of the real Noor Nobi.
Ellie Contursi is a librarian in London, ON.
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