CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 18. . . .January 20, 2017
My Beautiful Birds, by Suzanne Del Rizzo, tells the story of young Sami, a boy who has escaped war-torn Syria and made it safely to a refugee camp. But Sami desperately misses his flock of pigeons that he had back home and worries about what has become of them. Sami struggles with the past and slowly adjusts to life in the camp and befriends four new birds: a canary, a dove, a rose finch, and a pigeon. With the help of his new birds, he begins to find happiness again, and, at the end of the story, Sami welcomes a girl who has just arrived at the camp.
Suzanne Del Rizzo both wrote and illustrated My Beautiful Birds. The illustrations are mixed media, including plasticine, polymer clay, and acrylic. The plasticine and clay provide colourful yet dimensional illustrations to accompany the story. Two of my favourite illustrations are the powerful images of Samiís painting of his beloved pigeon becoming covered in black smears, and, on the following page, the clouds in the purple and pink sky transforming into birds.
The topics of Syria and the refugee crisis are so timely and important that Iím very pleased Pajama Press has produced a picture book to address not only the topics but also the human emotions around them. The publisher suggests a 6-10 age range for the book, but I would instead suggest a bit older, perhaps 8-12. While written in simple words, My Beautiful Birds is very poetic with a significant amount of depth and symbolism. While there are some universal themes, such as fear, loss, and change, students without background knowledge of the situation in Syria or the concept of refugees might need a significant amount of scaffolding about current events to understand the book. For these reasons, I feel My Beautiful Birds is a good example of a picture book for upper elementary grades (Grades 3 to 8). The outstanding artwork, along with the multi-faceted themes, would give older elementary readers much to discuss and explore.
Because of its timely content and poignant illustrations, My Beautiful Birds is a worthwhile purchase for home, school, and public libraries.
Dr. Kristen Ferguson teaches literacy education at the Schulich School of Education at Nipissing University in North Bay, ON.
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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.