CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 29 . . . . March 30, 2018
Charles, written by S.E. Hume and illustrated by Jessica Bromley Bartram, tells the tale of a young girl who raises a baby crow. When the girl finds an abandoned crow in the woods, she takes him home and names him Charles. She keeps Charles warm, feeds him, and brings him with her to collect strawberries in her backyard. The girl grows to love her new friend, but once the crow is strong enough, he starts to fly further and further from home—until the day arrives when he flies away and does not return. The girl is upset, but many nights later, a black crow appears at her window, stopping only long enough to leave a strawberry on the sill. The girl is comforted by the gift and thinks the berry is the sweetest one she's ever tasted.
This is a lovely story about the joys of helping a wild creature. The unnamed narrator takes responsibility for Charles, caring for him to ensure he is healthy and strong. When he is big enough to venture away from his shoebox home, the girl is upset to see her friend leave. But the crow offers her a gift of thanks in the form of a strawberry, comforting the girl by showing her that, although Charles needs to be free with other birds in the wild, he has not forgotten the bond the two shared while she raised him.
Jessica Bromley Bartram's watermedia illustrations do an excellent job of showcasing the colours and patterns of nature. There is a lot of detail put into these images, with every tree, plant, and object decorated with spores, veins, and other small touches of design. With a soft palette largely compromised of blue, green, brown, and yellow, the images evoke the lively beauty of the natural world.
The text of Charles is short and simple, making the tale accessible for younger audiences, while the themes of nature, nurture, and friendship can be explored by younger and older readers alike. With its sweet ending and engaging illustrations, Charles is a good choice for fans of nature stories and tales of the caring bond friends can share.
Meredith Cleversey, a librarian in Cambridge, ON, loves to read, write, and live in a world of pure imagination.