When a writer can deliver a message in few words, while leaving a lasting impression on both children and adults (including me), I buy the book. The Lion And The Bird, by Marianne Dubuc is that book.
The book has far more pages than most children’s picture books, which I found curious. As soon as I read The Lion And The Bird I understood why; adding text to what could have been a wordless book skyrocketed the message and put the book into the class of Goodnight Moon for older children.
A lion is tending to his garden in autumn when a flock of birds passes overhead. One bird is on the ground, injured. Lion hears a sound, thus the beginning of the story. While he tends to the bird, the story is developing. “Oh no! They’re flying away.” Those few words spark…well, silence and then a long discussion, the kind that brings worry to the surface. Children need to know worry. Those five words were powerful.
The lion and the bird stay together for the winter and into spring. The inevitable happens. Then one day, spring returns. And others, too. “Yes”, says Lion. “I know”.
“I know.” Those two words along with the illustration pack more power and emotion than paragraphs of words. Two words stop the story and ignite one of the most important conversations I have with children: feelings, right and wrong, friendships, and kindness. Oh, do we ever stop and talk!
I am educating the heart. Nothing is more important.
This is followed by, “And so it goes. Sometimes life is like that.” I simply put the book down and say nothing, as these are words that all people, children and adults, need to hear and know. I repeat the words, and I’m sure I have a look of “it’s okay” on my face. I sense that those words are water filling every child’s bucket. The faces of children tell me so.
Sometimes life is like that.
Lion understands, and continues with his life through the seasons. Spring returns and he has many thoughts. Again, the book has few words and plenty of illustrations that pack a powerful message. When spring returns he hears a sound:
Of course the floodgates opened, beginning with my asking, “What is that?” Watching the children figure out that it was actually music, and it must be from the bird was wonderful. The excitement and anticipation grew. Rapidly!
When words are carefully crafted, they are like magic. They open doors and chambers in the mind that the reader never realized were there. Those words make them see and understand.
Finding a good book like The Lion And The Bird is finding hidden treasure. I found this book at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, a treasure museum in itself. My book collection has been lovingly collected over the decades and is filled with the best, not necessarily the award winners. I only buy a few books a year, great ones such as The Lion And The Bird.