IntroductionBelow and on the following pages you'll find my personal choices for the best illustrated children's books of 2012. I hope you enjoy at least some of these as much as I have.
Title: A Home for Bird
Author and Illustrator: Philip C. Stead
Recommended for: Ages 3 to 6
Story and Illustrations: There are so many things to talk about in A Home for Bird. Just after a truck filled with stuff hits a bump and something pops out, Vernon the toad, who is out looking for "interesting things," finds it - a bird. Although the bird doesn't respond when Vernon asks if it's lost, Vernon claims it as a friend and introduces Bird to his friends Skunk and Porcupine. Vernon tells his friends that Bird didn't say anything to them because he's shy. He also praises Bird as "a very good listener." Despite including Bird in lots of activities, Bird never speaks and Vernon worries that his new friend is unhappy.
Vernon decided to help Bird get back to his home and they sail off together in a teacup boat with a spoon oar. Despite going to many different places, Vernon isn't able to help Bird find his home. Vernon is a good friend so he doesn't give up. With the help of some other birds, he ties the teacup boat to a balloon and floats off to find a home for bird. What they find at the end of their journey brings happiness to both Vernon and Bird who, having been returned to his home, a cuckoo clock, can now speak.
There's a slightly messy, not quite finished look to the illustrations, that is very appealing. It gives a sense of movement and life to them. Stead's frequent use of white backgrounds helps to put all of the emphasis on the foreground and the action taking place. Vernon, Porcupine and Skunk are very distinctive and appealing characters. While Bird is noticeably still and silent, he, too, with his striped legs and button eyes, has his appeal.
On several of the pages, Stead moves the action along with comic book-style panels. Stead's use of color and detail adds to the pleasure. Instead of the collages of his earlier books, Stead used water-soluble crayon and gouache for A Home for Bird.
Vernon is a wonderful example of a good friend. He accepts Bird as he is. He is committed to helping Bird return home. When they make no progress, he figures out a new way to search and perseveres. Finally, when they find a home for Bird, Vernon is happy because his friend is happy. Best of all, there is nothing either preachy or sentimental about this story. It's just a terrific story that kids will enjoy.
Book Trailer: Watch the book trailer for A Home for Bird.
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: 2012
Cost: Compare prices.