Review of Mel Fell

Mel Fell
by Corey R. Tabor; illus. by the author
Primary    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    40 pp.    g
2/21    978-0-06-287801-4    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-308952-5    $12.99

This playful and innovatively designed book tells the story of a small bird who is eager to fly. When Mama leaves the tree one day, Mel jumps, and readers follow her freefall, beak pointed straight at the ground — a moment made even more dramatic by the vertical orientation of this book. As she falls, she passes other tree-dwellers who try to catch her — squirrels, owls, a spider, and more (all their dialogue is captured in speech bubbles). When she splashes into the water below, readers are instructed, via smaller font, to turn the book clockwise, and then once again to follow her path back up (“She flew!”) with a fish in her beak. She passes the same creatures on her flight up, all of whom cheer her on, the spider even weaving a “yay” for Mel in its web. There’s a good deal of humor in this lighthearted story; a slug keeps promising to help but never makes it far, and a fly is liberated (“I’m free!”) from the spider’s web when Mel falls through it. Tabor’s relaxed, loose-lined illustrations capture the energy of the fall as well as Mel’s endearing, determined personality. A short closing note from the author states that Mel is a kingfisher, and that kingfishers are unlikely to catch fish the first time they fly — but that “Mel is a very special bird.” Indeed.

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson writes about picture books at the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. She also writes for Kirkus Reviews and BookPage and is a lecturer for the School of Information Sciences graduate program at the University of Tennessee. Her book Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, written with Betsy Bird and Peter D. Sieruta, was published in 2014.

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