The Woman Who Turned Children Into Birds

The Woman Who Turned Children Into Birds
David Almond and Laura Carlin,
Walker Studio

When a woman, Nancy Solo by name, arrives in town claiming to be able to turn children into birds, the adults warn the youngsters to stay away, scoffing, calling it piffle and balderdash. The children however think differently. First to approach Nancy on the bench is Dorothy Carr. Nancy whispers into her ear and off flies the girl, a swallow ‘swooping up into the blue’, but only briefly.

Before long another child, Colin Fox steps forward

and takes to the air – as a sparrow. Very soon the sky is full with a goldfinch, a rook and a host of other children transformed into birds. With more and more children enjoying their flight, Nancy asks the adults, “But what on earth are you afraid of?” Twice she asks the question and on the second occasion one of the grown ups starts to soar, thoroughly enjoying so doing; and it’s not long before the sky is filled with joyful song and soaring birds.

Nancy’s work here is done; everyone has become a risk taker, overcoming that fear of flying, and it’s time for her to move on to another town and work her magic.

Full of playful language, there’s a fable like feel to David Almond’s tale and Laura Carlin’s wonderful mixed media illustrations show an aura of light surrounding each transformation as it occurs. A story to revisit over and over with the possibility of new meaning emerging with each reading.

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