I Am a Bird by Hope Lim, illustrated by Hyewon Yum (9781536208917)
Every morning a little girl flies like a bird on the back of her father’s bicycle. She sings like a bird too with a “Ca-Caw!” of delight. Along the way, they wave at the people they pass who smile and wave back. Then one morning, the little girl glimpses a person hurrying through the streets with a large bag. The woman doesn’t wave or smile at all. They see her the next day too, and the little girl doesn’t wave or smile at her this time. What could the woman be doing? Where is she headed in such a hurry day after day? The little girl becomes scared of the woman, since she acts so strangely. But then one day, they discover what the woman has been doing. She has been feeding the birds with a “Chee-chee-chee” quietly whispered to them. Now the little girl is a bird once more.
Lim delicately offers a tale about assumptions that we all make about those around us. Assumptions that can quickly grow to dislike, even though we don’t know the person at all. Told in the first person by the little girl, she explores the confusion and fear caused by a woman rushing past without smiling or waving. The reaction is believable for a small child and also speaks to how humans in general react to those who are different from us.
The art is done in merry colors in colored pencils and gouache. The little girl and her father are particularly bright on the page with their sunny yellow, bright blue and bright red colors. The neighborhood they live in is also part of the story with its seaside, graffiti and close buildings.
A picture book about community and connection. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
A New York taxi driver picks up a rather odd passenger who asks to be taken to Schmeeker Street on the other side of town. They reach a dead end, but that is not the other side of town yet. The man pulls out a remote control and the dead end opens into a tunnel, the Finkon Tunnel. The tunnel leads to a maze of ramps that twist and turn, ending in spotholes. The driver tries to avoid them, but accidentally drives into one of the large black holes from which they are dumped onto Schmeeker Street. Suddenly everything is pink and green, just like the man. Finally, they reach his destination but the cabbie is caught on the other side of town until he notices the remote control left in the back seat. But yet another surprise is waiting for him when he gets home!
Agee plays with our expectations with a great sense of fun in this book. Renaming landmarks into something very similar but yet strange and different was a great choice. The tone is entirely one of silliness and laughter with just enough being different and zany to make it clear that the other side of town is unlike anywhere readers have ever been. It is through this that Agee subtly demonstrates that there are paths to cultural acceptance for those who are different from us.
The color palette of the other side of town also plays a large role in the story. Immediately readers will see the little man as unusual thanks to his pink plume and green bodysuit. When the story moves to the other side of town, the cabbie suddenly pops in his pale blue against all of the pink and green.
Funny, silly and a treat, take a visit to the other side of the town! Appropriate for ages 4-6.