'Breathe deeply and take your time. The making of a bird is not a thing to be hurried.' '. . . feel your slowly beating heart fill with a kind of sadness, a kind of happiness. For this is when you will know that you have really made a bird.' These are my favourite lines form this beautifully delicate and evocative story. Yes there is a bird that is made, but it is so much more than just a bird. From the delicate bones gathered by the child, to figuring out how to put them together, and then the thoughtful imagining of what is needed for the bird to truly fly, are ideas expertly brought to life in Meg's soulful, meditative text. There is a sense of wonder at every page turn as we follow the journey of the child and the bird in its making. I love Matt's blueprint that forms part of the front cover illustration as this creates the simple deception that there is a blueprint to follow, when in fact there really isn't. His palette of soft, paler hues and tones throughout the majority of the story adds to the ethereal nature of the text. The exquisite, brighter colours of the feathers are a marvellous contrast and help focus the readers' attention on the possibilities of what the bird might do and become.
How To Make A Bird is a story of self belief, individuality, resilience, belonging and limitless imagination, and is a picture book for all ages - not just younger readers. There are so many layers to both the text and the illustrations that you will discover something new every time you read this stunning 2021 CBCA Picture Book Award winner.
Use this story in both primary and secondary classrooms for poetry studies, storytelling, art studies and for maker space ideas. Themes to be explored could include resilience, belonging, imagination, self-awareness, compassion and inventiveness.
Find out more about Meg McKinlay.
Find out more about Matt Ottley.
Published 2020 by Walker Books Australia.
ISBN 9781925381894 (HB)
Highly recommended for ages 6 - 12
I would also recommend this book for middle and high school students.
Monkey was going on a holiday. He was given a very special present to take with him. He’d never been on a holiday before or owned a camera. Monkey begins packing immediately for an adventure like no other, as he travels by plane and boat to reach the famous floating city of Venice. When he arrives, he meets Clarabella the cat, who offers to take him on a tour of the city she knows so well. They walk across small bridges over the canals that connect the city, take a ride on a gondola and stop for some yummy pizza! At the end of a fun filled day, Monkey cannot resist taking just one more photo but – uh oh! Something happens to his camera and then Clarabella disappears and he’s left all alone. Will Clarabella come back? And what exactly happened to his camera? Monkey’s Great Adventures: Afloat in Venice is a charming story of adventure and friendship by Australian artist and author Tina Wilson. Tina uses her own beautiful photographic images of this iconic city to accompany the playful text. The hand knitted toy characters, made by Tina’s mum Joan Wilson, are immediately loveable and most certainly add to the appeal of this heart warming story.
Not only is Matt Ottley an amazing author and illustrator, but he is also an accomplished and talented composer. His music is the perfect companion to Monkey’s adventures in Venice. There is a childlike quality to the opening, and the interaction between clarinet, horn and strings when Clarabella and Monkey first meet is reminiscent of early singsong nursery rhymes. Different time signatures, tempos, dynamics and instruments are employed to reflect the varying moods and movement of the characters as they explore the city. Most children recognise the sound of a piano, and using this instrument as the connecting and supporting thread for the other instruments, makes for a clever and well-constructed musical accompaniment that creates a wonderful aural and visual experience for the reader and listener.
This is a must have story for preschool and early primary school library collections, and one for your own collection too if you have young ones at home. It is the first in a series of adventures for Monkey, and I can’t wait to see what he gets up to next!
The knitting patterns for the characters and a CD of the music and narration are included at the end of the book. Tina has included some fantastic teaching notes which are available for download on her website. You can also download and listen to the story and music on Matt’s website
Find out more about Tina Wilson
Find out more about Matt Ottley
Due for release September 1, 2021. Published by One Tentacle Publishing
ISBN 9780648511960 (HB)
Recommended for ages 3 - 7
I LOVE our Aussie picture book authors and illustrators. If you're looking to supplement your collection at home or an international school library wanting to diversify both your author base and your collection, try some of the ones below. It is by no means an exhaustive list (there are SO many more!) but it is a great start. My favourites are those by Freya Blackwood, Matt Ottley, Bronwyn Bancroft and Glenda Millard. More wonderful diverse Australian books coming soon.