________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 10 . . . . November 11, 2016


The Day I Became a Bird.

Ingrid Chabbert. Illustrated by Raúl Nieto Guridi.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2016.
40 pp., hardcover, $17.95.
ISBN 978-1-77138-621-0.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Gregory Bryan and Penny Kasten.

**½ /4



Sylvia is in my class.
She sits in front of me.
All I see is her.
But she doesn't see me.

Kids Can Press' new picture book, The Day I Became a Bird, was originally published in Spain in 2015. The book is the product of Ingrid Chabbert's concise writing and Guridi's stylized, sparsely coloured illustrations. Told from the first person perspective of a young boy, the book tells of the narrator's attempts to attract the attention of a girl named Sylvia. The boy says that, on his first day of school, he fell in love. Unfortunately for him, Sylvia's attention is otherwise occupied by the birds that she loves. Sylvia "observes them in the wild and gently cares for them when they are injured." She has bird designs on her clothes, she draws birds in her notebooks and, according to the narrator, "when she speaks, her voice sounds like birdsong."

      Chabbert lives in France. Her understated text is deceptively simple and to the point. Yet, the theme embedded within that sparse text revolves around mature and sophisticated notions of love. When the boy dresses as a bird to attract Sylvia's attention, previously simple tasks become considerably more complicated. Although brief, because of Chabbert's careful word choices, the written text is descriptive and evocative. It is also sprinkled with lighthearted episodes that alleviate some of the tension of the narrator's unrequited pursuit of Sylvia. This lightheartedness is necessary for a book in which the presentation suggests a young target audience; however, the content seems much more appropriate for older readers.

      The artwork of Spanish illustrator Guridi was rendered in pencil and photoshop. The drawings contain almost no colour and, with rare exception, very little detail. Appropriately, depictions of birds are considerably more detailed and realistically drawn. As with the written text, the artwork suggests simplicity, yet it extends Chabbert's words in a pleasing and successful manner.

      Although we appreciate both the written and illustrative work, we wonder about the book's appeal. On the one hand, it seems geared toward grade one or grade two students. We suspect, however, that few such young children will be particularly interested in reading about love. Indeed, one of us read the book aloud to our grade one students and, as we expected, it seemed to go over their heads. The grade one students thought it was funny that the boy would dress as a bird; however, they failed to grasp the theme of love. It is cleverly executed, but those most likely to appreciate it will not be drawn to the book because of its simple appearance.

      Ultimately the narrator's efforts are rewarded when Sylvia notices him. The front endpapers show a single bird, yet the back endpapers show two birds together. The boy says "I feel like I'm flying." It is a lovely message and a positive way for the book to end. We hope people will read it, but we fear not.

Recommended with Reservations.

Dr. Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba. He specializes in children's literature.
Penny Kasten teaches grade one in Winnipeg, MB. She is a graduate student in the Faculty of Education.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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