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Review: Ten Birds by Cybele Young


Ten Birds   A clever counting book and fable unlike any other and winner of the 2011 Governor General’s Award for Illustration. Ten birds are trying to figure out how to get to the other side of the river. The bird they call “Brilliant” devises a pair of stilts. The bird they call “Highly Satisfactory” engineers a raft. One by one, nine resourceful birds make the crossing until a single bird is left behind ? the one they call “Needs Improvement.” This bird’s solution proves surprising ? and absurdly simple.

Aside from the stunning pen and ink illustrations, this book has so many wonderful aspects. Numeracy (Math Literacy) as it is a counting book. Problem solving, critical thinking as using the resources around them each bird creates a way across the river until only one is left. I can see this inspiring many “build & construct” activities and contraption building at home and in the classroom.  I think one of the more outstanding parts of the story is the message within it. Each bird is given a label “Brilliant, Excellent, Highly Satisfactory” as they design their way across the river. It is the last bird that has been labelled “Needs Improvement” that seems to uncover the most obvious way to cross. I love the subtlety to that message. It’s done in a way that isn’t preachy, as some children’s books can be… it reminds us that labels don’t mean anything.  When I’ve shared with families, they children often shout out but birds can fly!! They’ve found a way across too! I’ll be presenting a special program for families in November based on the book.

Ten Birds is my communities “Let’s Read” selection for 2012. Each year a book is selected for families around the region to share together. There are special events, contests and author events planned. For more information about the program visits here : Let’s Read.

Published: March 2011-Kids Can Press