A friend of mine brought me back the perfect gift after her trip to Australia: a book! Early Bird written by Nigel Gray and illustrated by Elise Hurst is an adorable story of a young girl named Melody who wishes to know: “Why do the birds sing their dawn chorus? And why do they stop when the sun rises?” Bold watercolor illustrations alternate with simple black-and-white sketches to perfectly complement this four-chapter whimsical tale.
I like Melody! When she wakes, she lies in bed and listens to the sounds of the coming morning. An hour before sunrise, the main sound comes from birds. Melody has a quirk of mine of making more than one comparison for the various observations she makes. For example, not only does it sound like she hears hundreds of birds, but “It sounded like a bedlam of birds. It sounded as if all the birds of the town had gathered together to exercise their lungs.” This girl should be in my writing class! Melody also has an inquisitive mind. As soon as the sun rose, the birds became silent. Melody wanted to know the reason and so one day sets out to ask the neighboring animals for the answer.
Did I mention this is a fantasy? It’s a quiet one that sneaks up on you. Melody wakes up, listens to the birds, and then one morning asks her questions to her cat. Nicodemus is twice as old as her, and sleeps most of the day, and indeed most of the night until the birds awake him. When Melody talks to him, he responds crossly, “I don’t know. But if I were a few years younger, I’d put a stop to their racket.” Both Melody and him proceed to chat as naturally as if Nicodemus were a human. For that reason, I believe that he can talk. And that each subsequent animal, including those native to Australia such as a goanna, a koala, and a kookaburra, can just as easily chat with Melody.
There’s more to the tale than I have described, but to find out the answers to Melody’s questions and the idea they inspire you’ll need to search out Early Bird. Thanks to my friend for the terrific gift! This summer, I plan to search for an equally darling picture book during my travels to gift to her.
Reprinted from Allison’s Book Bag. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2013.