Score: 91/100 (9.1 out of 10)
You Can Fly, Little Bird is a cute, touching, colorfully-illustrated children's book by Tuula Pere. It follows Serene, a fledgling bird who is full of curiosity, anxiety, and fear regarding the world outside her nest, particularly the many other birds that live nearby.
As we've so often said about Tuula Pere's books, she isn't afraid to go deeper and darker than most other children's authors. Well, this book isn't particularly dark, but it is deep, exploring more “grown-up” themes/emotions like anxiety and maybe even a little xenophobia (fear of outsiders or people who are different). No, Serene is far from racist or bigoted, she just has a very understandable and familiar fear of unfamiliar people and things. It's something we all experience to a certain degree—something we're programmed with for the sake of survival. Without these instincts, we'd run head-first at hippos, swim with crocodiles, and tug on Superman's cape. In other words, fear is an instinct that helps to keep us safe. It's crippling fear that's the problem.
Serene seems to have a crippling fear of leaving the nest. She also seems to have a fear of flying, although she's fascinated by the thought of someday doing so. It's interesting to note that this is the SECOND book we've read this season about a bird that wants to fly.
Something beautiful about this book is that it reveals to us that the more we know about others, the less fearful and scary they become. It's funny how that works. Much of the time, we simply fear what we don't know. We thought about some of the creatures that scare us: sharks, centipedes, spiders, snakes, bed bugs, etc. But what's interesting is, the more you learn about these creatures, the less scary they become. You start to realize that you're a lot bigger and stronger than most of these (ok, maybe not sharks, but you get the point) and that most of them are more scared of you than you are of them.
Serene learns about the night owl—a creature that terrified her at night—as well as the wader, a long-legged bird, and the ducks. She learns, for example, that the night owl sings a sweet song at night, something that makes her less alien and scary. She learns that the ducks are able to dive into the water, and that the waders have legs so long that they can touch the bottom of the water.
Another thing that's excellent about this book is that it's probably Pere's best-illustrated book of the season, although it's not quite on the level of The Only Blue Crow.
Something that we struggled with was that this book is strangely difficult to read. It's kinda funny because it isn't particularly wordy. The font size is incredibly small, and the way that the paragraphs are formatted make things read in a “choppy” and less smooth way. We'd rather the text be larger and stretched across the page to make it easier to read rather than in these small blocks of text. Using a larger first letter on every page also sets off the dyslexia triggers, at least from our experience. The language used is also more advanced than most children's books. For example, the Mother and Father birds use the word “brindled” to describe what their children will look like. This is kinda embarrassing, but some of us had to look that word up, learning that it was a type of pattern found on some animals.
Anyway, it's easy to overlook these difficulties because the book's characters and message are so beautiful. You can't help but cheer for Serene as she finds the courage to fly.
Check it out on Amazon!