________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 34. . . . May 4, 2018


The King of the Birds.

Acree Graham Macam. Illustrated by Natalie Nelson.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood, 2016.
36 pp., hardcover & pdf, $17.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-55498-851-8 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55498-852-5 (pdf).

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 3-6.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

** /4


A little girl named Flannery owns a chicken that gains fame by being able to walk backwards. Not satisfied with this (as the line that recurs several times in the book states “life was a little too quiet”), she fills the house with birds of “every type she can find”. But

A peacock would be more exciting than a thousand birds.
Flannery had to have one.
She did extra chores for a week to convince her mother.

internal art     The peacock arrives, by train, but proves less than the stunning example of avian beauty Flannery had hoped for. In spite of all her efforts to please him, even throwing him a party with cake and putting on a parade, the peacock refuses to reveal his spectacular display of tail feathers.

One night, Flannery awoke to a horrible noise.
“Qua! Qua! Qua! Qua! Qua! Qua! MRAWWWWW!
She shot up in bed. “I know.”
The next afternoon she gathered her collection for an
important announcement. I HEREBY introduce the
She plopped the new peahen down on the ground.

     And the peacock lifts his beautiful tail to show off for his new mate. The peahen proves to be less interested in the peacock’s display than the neighbours, but the final spread demonstrates that the two do get together on more than a few occasions, as shown by a bevy of peachicks of both sexes.

     The art work here is an original mix of hand-painted paper, drawings and photographs. The human and bird forms have some irregular edges that emphasize the collage element. Nelson has used an inviting colour palette of dark blue, green and gold on a creamy background. The birds are depicted in a wonderful array of colours and sizes and with the kinds of expressions you can only find in a work of imagination.

     Unfortunately the illustrations do not do enough to rescue the sometimes confusing (I could not figure out at the beginning whether Flannery was the girl or the famous chicken), sometimes awkward writing. Macam is an advertising copywriter and has won a creative writing award from Emory University, but she needs to polish her text to provide the succinct, fluid writing that makes a picture book successful, especially as a readaloud.

     Both contributors to the book are Americans living near Atlanta, GA. The author states that writer Flannery O’Connor was the inspiration for the book, a fact which I don’t know would have much resonance with Canadian youngsters.

Recommended with Reservations.

Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.

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

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