Review of One Dark Bird

One Dark Bird by Liz Garton Scanlon One Dark Bird
by Liz Garton Scanlon; illus. by Frann Preston-Gannon
Preschool    Beach Lane/Simon    40 pp.
7/19    978-1-5344-0443-4    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5344-0444-1    $10.99

A small paragraph on the title page defines a murmuration (“a single-seeming mass [of birds] that performs coordinated acrobatic dances in the sky”) before using a counting-book frame to illustrate one composed of starlings. “1 / dark bird / perched way up high / a view of town / a taste of sky. // 2 birds more / come winging by / then 3 / then 4 / flights multiply.” Hand-drawn and digital illustrations, mostly focused on the rooftops and the bird’s-eye views, convey a warm, colorful afternoon in a community full of people, pets, and bicycles. The counting stops at 10, as the spare, poetic text then compounds the number of starlings in the sky into the hundreds (“A hundred here / and there / and there / fine feathered friends / with sky to spare”), while the art shows them gathering in the sunset. When a hawk arrives on the scene and startles the group of birds, the mur-muration begins, and each double-page spread becomes a breathtaking display of bird choreography. Finally, the birds disperse, allowing a slow counting backward from 10. Darkness overtakes the town, and birds and people begin to get ready for sleep. A pleasure to look at and think about, this story and its inspiring sky-set dance can elicit new appreciation for the natural world.

From the July/August 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Roach
Julie Roach

Julie Roach, chair of the 2020 Caldecott Committee, manages youth services at the Cambridge Public Library in Massachusetts. She also teaches children’s literature at Simmons University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science and at Lesley University.

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