Monday, December 12, 2016

Birdsong: A Story in Pictures by James Sturm (2016)

In my years as a children's librarian, sometimes parents (of a certain stripe) would ask for books about "consequences."  To be honest, books with clear cut consequences written for children are difficult to find.  And really awful.  A lot of books written for a children have a moral of some sort, but they are usually sort of subtle; they are never along the lines of "Dakota told a lie, and the consequence was that her mother was brutally burned up in a house fire."  When things like this happen in books, it's usually satire.

Birdsong, however, is a book for children with a clear cut consequence for behavior:  two children kill a turtle and tease a bird, and a magician  (of some sort) gets mad at them for it and turns them into monkeys; they are subsequently tortured by being locked up in a circus as freaks and made to perform, before someone takes pity on them.  They never are turned into children again.  They do, however, eventually live happily (ever after is unknown).

What's absolutely cool about Birdsong is that the book has no words.  It's a wordless picture book.  In fact, according to the blurb on the inside cover:    "In the tradition of kamishibai, or Japanese paper theater, the wordless format gives freedom to the readers to tell the story as they see it."

So my interpretation of this gruesome little moralistic story could, in the hands of another little monster other than myself, be told in a completely different way.  The joy of wordless picture books, right there.

As for kamishibai - I don't know enough about this artform to know whether this book is representative or not; but the concept is cool.

I loved Sturm's illustrations, which feel sort of old fashioned; it's like Dick and Jane are the ones turned into monkeys.  The illustrations sort of reminded me of this animated short called Rabbit that I love.


Birdsong: A Story in PicturesBirdsong: A Story in Pictures by James Sturm


Wordless picture books are a mixture of annoying and cool. This is no exception. It's cool because you get to make up your own story. It's annoying because you get to make up your own story.

I loved Sturm's illustrations, which feel sort of old fashioned; it's like Dick and Jane only far hipper. The illustrations sort of reminded me of this you tube animated short called Rabbit that I love (here: https://youtu.be/iYAixjN9BQg).


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