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Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach
If You Were a Parrot
If You Were a Parrot
by Katherine Rawson, illustrated by Sherry Rogers
Sylvan Dell,(August 2006)
If you were a parrot, you would have two feet, just like you do now, but . . . you would only have four toes on each foot, and two of them would point backwards.
With feet like these, you could climb everywhere...
up the curtains,
all around the bookshelf,
in and out of boxes,
even to the top of a potted fig tree.
--If You Were a Parrot by Katherine Rawson, illustrated by Sherry Rogers, p. 1-4.
What would you do if you were a parrot? The children in If You Were a Parrot climb curtains, chew on pencils and spoons, imitate a phone ringing, and have a lot of fun. You will, too, reading this book.
The opening text grabs reader interest by beginning with a surprise--the idea of the reader only having four toes on each foot, and two that would point backwards. I love the playfulness of this, and the way it encourages the reader to use their imagination. The playfulness continues throughout the book.
Rawson gently teaches the reader about parrots, mostly without the reader feeling that they are being taught, because of the child-like playfulness, such as a child climbing the curtains, or enjoying eating a popsicle, stick and all. There is joy in so many of the examples, and fun at imagining doing something that the reader could not and should not do (such as chew through a table leg or successfully immitate a phone ringing so that people think they have to answer it), and this joy and impishness is contagious. Many of the ideas are startling to think of a child doing, which adds to the fun, and brings a freshness to the writing. The examples also give the reader insight into what a parrot might actually do all day.
Expectation is set up after each introductory idea of how the reader could be like a parrot, so that the reader gets to enjoy the idea of what she could do with that trait, but this is not always successful; sometimes the silliest ideas are incorporated into the introductory idea, and sometimes (as with the splashing and preening), there doesn't seem to be any fun or uniqueness to the trait at all. I was looking for a rhythm that wasn't completely there. At times the text moves into what feels like teaching, and then the story becomes slow, or doesn't feel like a story. I would have preferred that the playfulness remain the strongest thread. I also found the mention of a cage off-putting; parrots in their natural environment do not live in cages, and it feels strange to have a child imagine themselves in a cage. However, that does fit a pet parrot. For the most part, this is a very playful, fun book that will stir children's imaginations.
Rogers' (Counting Little Geckos, Burro's Tortillas) vibrant digital illustrations make the book come alive. Characters and objects are painted realistically, and almost look like you can reach out and touch them. Rogers makes great use of shadow and hues, which adds to the at times almost three-dimensional feeling. Bold colors emulate those of parrots and make the illustrations pop.
Rogers captures the feeling of the text and builds on it, adding setting details that enhance the story, such as a young child surrounded by crayons and drawings she's completed, and a beautiful star-and-night blanket that covers the bird cage in the closing spread. The backgrounds fade into the page, with foggy blues and greys, and this makes the children and the parrots burst into the foreground even more. Rogers uses great detail, making the parrots feathers appear to have texture, and folds in clothing appear natural.
Different species of parrots and various ethnicicites of children are represented in the illustrations, which is refreshing. The illustrations use strong body language, adding to the surprise and joy of the text. One thing that sometimes visually threw me were the parrot beaks on the children's faces, instead of children's mouths. They take some getting used to. But once you do, they're fun.
The last few pages after the story include interesting parrot facts, a parrot-related activity (make-a-beak craft), and some things you need to know if you want to have a pet parrot.
This is a book that is playful and fun--a flight into the imagination--while offering a lot of information about parrots. If You Were a Parrot encourages creative thinking and play. Recommended!
-Added January 1, 2008
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