For Trendy Tuesday this week, I have chosen the book My Beautiful Birds written and illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo. I was first drawn to the book due to the illustration of the boy and the birds on the front cover. The mixed media technique that is used conveys realism and a very unique texture that I have never seen in a book before. The cover attracts the reader without revealing anything about the themes that are present in this children’s book.
The book immediately starts with a young boy, Sami, and his family walking away from a scene of destruction. The same techniques used on the cover become even more powerful inside the book as Rizzo depicts the journey of this young boy and his family. The texture makes the images of their old home being destroyed and the terrain they must travel through even more jarring. These images strongly support and add emotion to the words. Not only does the technique used in the images help convey meaning and realism, they would intrigue children of all ages. The images demand attention which further adds to the storyline and overall message of the book.
I previously mentioned the texture of the birds on the cover of this book. This is the first introduction of the central theme of the book. Often times, birds represent freedom and hope; this is no different in My Beautiful Birds. However, instead of showing up at the end, as is typical, the beautiful birds reflect the absence and presence of these core ideas within the young boy. As his family are forced to leave their home, the boy thinks about his birds. The birds were present when at the boy’s home, a place where he felt safe and secure.
Now that they are on this journey, the birds are gone. The boy has lost hope and his sense of freedom. He longs for the birds, he longs to regain a sense of belonging. As the boy and his family spend more time at the camp, the children begin to play, learn, and do arts and crafts. The boy starts to feel happier and decides to paint an image of his birds. Suddenly, the boy feels hopeless again. The imagery for this is one of the strongest in the book as his painting of a cheerful blue bird becomes covered in harsh, black paint.
The boy becomes upset and runs to the top of a hill. It is there, where he has the realization that even though he is in a new place, the sky is still his sky. He finds peace in the sky, it is not a reminder of his old home but an indicator that even though things are different there is still beauty in the world that he can appreciate. The images of birds begin to appear in the sky because after this realization, he is able to regain hope. More and more birds begin to come as his sense of hope continues to grow.
This is a trendy Tuesday book because we need to continue the shift towards exposing children to unfamiliar cultures and to real-world events. This book is a perfect example of a children’s story that can start of discussion of topics that have previously been deemed too difficult for young children. The refugee crisis is such a prominent issue that can too easily be ignored. Children around the world are experiencing these realities that are foreign to children in the US. My Beautiful Birds addresses this topic in an appropriate way and exemplifies the message that even when hope is seemingly lost forever, it can be found again.