How To Make A Bird

How To Make a Bird
Meg McKinlay and Matt Ottley
Walker Books

This stunner of a book has at its heart, the imagination. It shows through the eyes of a solitary young girl protagonist, the importance of hope and determination in the creative process as you embark on a journey, not entirely sure of where it will lead.

We follow the girl as she collects, designs and builds using hundreds of hollow, light bones (when they rest in your palm you will hardly feel them, she says.) So much the better if they are to become airborne, but that’s kind of getting ahead.

As she lays them out into a bird shape, she contemplates, ‘the proud arch of an eagle, the soft curve of a sparrow’. Maybe, but this is a slow process,

this fashioning into a finished form and it can’t be done without feathers for both warmth and flight

and of course, a fast-beating heart. Then come those finishing touches that make your creation entirely unique – so much more that the sum of its parts.

That’s the magic and eventually it’s time to set free your deeply personal entity, to let it soar up and away …

Truly special, this is a book for all ages, a book where words and pictures are in complete harmony, a book for anyone who loves nature and being creative. Such is the attention to detail throughout that readers will want to pause on each exquisite spread, fill with awe, and wondering at the precious nature of life itself. Matt Ottley’s art has a musicality that is simply perfect for this story, as he gently infuses his visuals with the intimacy of Meg McKinlay’s telling : a telling that has an ethereal haunting quality that will stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.


Meg McKinlay and Nathaniel Eckstrom
Walker Books

Not a lot happens in this book until right at the end but nonetheless it’s absolutely hilarious throughout.

So, without further ado, let’s head over to the farm where one afternoon, horse is swishing his tail; cow is chewing the cud; pig is wallowing in mud and sheep is sheeping on the grass (love that).

Into this tranquil setting charges Duck, yelling a single word, “DUCK!”

Needless to say the other animals don’t appreciate this intrusion into their peace and each in turn attempts to explain to the noisy creature that they are not ducks; he is.

However, Duck’s message merely grows more strident.

By the time accusations of rudeness and lack of understanding have been hurled at the little animal, Nathaniel Eckstrom’s deliciously droll illustrations are foreshadowing the impending catastrophe that the chastisers are oblivious to but savvy audiences will be eagerly anticipating. To divulge more about this would spoil the grand finale.

With a simple misunderstanding at its heart, Meg McKinlay’s telling is enormous fun and the self-descriptions of the disgruntled animals absolutely wonderful, while the repeated “DUCK!” exclamation cries out for loud audience participation.

In addition, expect a plethora of giggles when you read this cracking story aloud, and be prepared at the end, for cries of “again!” from listeners.

Brilliant Bear Books


The Bear in the Book
Kate Banks and Georg Hallensleben
Andersen Press
We start with a familiar scenario – small boy ready for bed, chooses favourite book for his mother to read to him and snuggles close to her. The book is about a large black bear and immediately, the boy is immersed in the world of the bear as it beds down for the long winter sleep. “Shh,” he says almost feeling the snowflakes falling around the sleeping form. Staying quiet, the young listener watches the children and other animals in the winter landscape;


he sees too, the snowplough, somebody chopping firewood, crocuses starting to show through and finally as his own eyes close, the black bear emerging into the spring sunshine.
A gorgeous bedtime tale and one that highlights the power of a story and how children can become one with the world of a book. Young listeners and readers aloud will delight in the beautiful images both visual and verbal as they too become one with this story world.
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No Bears
Meg McKinlay and Leila Rudge
Walker Books pbk.
Meet Ruby, this is her book and, rest assured, “There are absolutely No BEARS in it.” Ruby should know, she’s in charge of it. Now Ruby has a great imagination, moreover she knows exactly what should be in a good story; it’s pretty things like princesses and castles and some exciting and scary things like monsters perhaps, but definitely NO BEARS. So are you ready for the bearless story? It’s in a special spiral bound volume and yes, there’s a princess living in a castle with her parents the King and Queen and her fairy godmother. There’s a is a deep dark forest and you’ve guessed, it – A MONSTER,  an evil one who wants to steal away the princess so she can read him bedtime stories every night. (almost excusable I suppose). And steal her he does. Somebody rescues her of course – with the wave of a magic wand … hmm.
“Wow! Says Ruby close to the end. ‘This has turned out to be a pretty good book, don’t you think?’ Well Ruby, actually I think that’s a huge understatement: It’s an absolutely brilliant one with its oh so cleverly constructed text and wonderfully whimsical pictures working in perfect harmony. Moreover it’s just perfect for inspiring children to create their own storybooks too – ABSOLUTELY NO BEARS of course!


In fact, whilst there are no bears in the story Ruby is telling, unbeknown to her but not to us, in the book we are reading, there is a bear who’s keeping a watchful eye on proceedings and acting as page-turner, props provider, scene changer and much more besides. And that’s not all; explore the illustrations further and all manner of other nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters make an appearance. That and the on-going visual joke are what make the book so irresistible and the ‘in the know’ audience squirm with delight.
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