The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown

The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown

The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Christian Robinson (InfoSoup)

This is a reillustrated edition of the classic picture book by Margaret Wise Brown. In the story, a group of children find a dead bird in the park. They check for a heartbeat but don’t find one. They are very sorry the bird has died and decide to have a funeral for it. So they dig a hole and fill it with sweet ferns and flowers. The sing a song and cry a bit too. Then they head off to play. They do visit for awhile, bringing fresh flowers to the little grave, and they slowly stop remembering to come.

This is such an honest book about death and grief. It captures that intense wave of sorrow upon finding a dead animal, the immediate connection children have to that creature and the importance of following through in a process of loss. The writing is superb, capturing these complex feelings but also not endowing them with too much weight. There is also a feeling of time passing and life moving on, even though the sadness was so large at first.

Robinson’s illustrations are engagingly simple with whimsical touches. One of the children wears butterfly or fairy wings as they play and another is in a fox mask and tail. They have a large dog along with them and a kite to fly. The children have the friendly expressions of Fisher Price dolls, a curve of smile and dot eyes. The illustrations show the same kind of frankness that marks the text as well.

Refreshingly honest and forthright, this picture book is a smart reworking of a classic story that will resonate with today’s children. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

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