Review: The Message of the Birds by Kate Westerlund

message of the birds

The Message of the Birds by Kate Westerlund, illustrated by Feridun Oral

The old owl tells the story of Christmas to a gather of birds.  He tells the story of Jesus in the manger and the birds above in the rafters.  The birds heard a song in the baby’s voice, a special song that they would carry through the world.  The robin asked why the birds don’t sing that song anymore, and the partridge explained that people don’t listen.  The little robin suggested that even if they don’t know the language anymore, their hearts could understand it.  The birds talk about whether the message would be heard and understood, and then the robin realizes that children are the most likely to hear the message.  So all of the birds sing the song, spread the message, particularly to children.  And something amazing happens.

I’m never sure with any Christmas book what level of Christianity I’m going to find in them and then what type of message it is going to be communicating.  When this book’s second set of pages had the manger scene, I thought I was in a very traditional Christmas book.  What followed though, was a delightful surprise as the book immediately turned from the traditional Christmas tale to one that is universal, a story of peace.  Westerlund tells the story with a pacing right out of folktales.  Her wise older owl, the inventive young robin are characters that are traditional in the best sense of the word.

Oral’s illustrations have a soft beauty to them.  Throughout his images of the birds, there is thick snow in the air.  The colors are consistently subtle and wintry, tawny browns, creamy whites and deep browns are punctuated only with the colors of the birds and the green of the trees. 

A lovely addition to Christmas stories, this book is beautifully written with rich illustrations.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.