Books Early Readers Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Reading Themes Writing Home: Hues of Diaspora in Literature

[Monday Reading] Finding Home in the Clouds with “My Beautiful Birds” and “King of the Sky”


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Before I share my reviews this week, a few updates! We are hosting a Literary Voyage Around the World Reading Challenge for 2018. Do join us and sign up here in our Announcement Page which also contains detailed guidelines if you so decide to participate.

We will be giving away book prizes quarterly (with special thanks to Pansing) for those who have committed to reading the world along with us!

I’ve been meaning to find these two picturebooks as I know that they are exactly the kind of books that young children now should begin reading, to have an appreciation of what is happening to the larger world around them. If we are committed to helping children develop compassion and empathy, stories like these mediate the development of such prosocial traits, as young readers begin seeing themselves in what has always been perceived as ‘the others.’

King Of The Sky

Written By: Nicola Davies Illustrated by: Laura Carlin
Published by: Candlewick Press, 2017
ISBN: 0763695688 (ISBN13: 9780763695682)Borrowed from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This is the second book from this author and illustrator tandem that just spoke to me so powerfully (the first one being The Promise). Here, a young boy from Italy who just moved to the Welsh countryside feels a distinct sense of alienation as everything around him showed how he clearly does not belong here.

Until he met an old man who was training pigeons for an upcoming race, and his unswerving faith that the birds, upon being set free, will be able to find their way back home to where they belong.

It is a beautiful story of unlikely friendship, and the sense of freedom embraced in flying free in the skies, as the pigeons, despite the distance, unerringly find their way back.

Carlin’s art captures the ephemeral, fleeting quality of melancholia for things long gone, the faded colours evocative of that which is there but isn’t anymore. Somehow, this young boy’s yearning for that which is so far away has been tempered somewhat with the pigeons’ flight, bringing with it the winds of home, the tastes of familiar streets in their beaks, and the courage to roam the skies with the knowledge that they belong neither here nor there, but everywhere their wings gather air.

My Beautiful Birds

Written and Created By: Suzanne Del Rizzo
Published by: Pajama Press, Inc. 2017
ISBN: 1772780103 (ISBN13: 9781772780109)Borrowed from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

With so many stories recently depicting refugees, a jaded reader may think that she has seen them all. This gorgeous book by Suzanne del Rizzo is hardly more of the same. It stands apart with such detailed art, created with polymer clay and acrylic, making the illustrations seemingly stand-out like a bas-relief of sorts, begging for your hands to run through the pages, expecting feathery creases, soft textures, and fluttering wings.

While the story is about young Sami’s family and how they have escaped from the bombing of their neighbourhood in Syria, it is so much more than just a ‘refugee experience.’ The story revolves around Sami’s longing for his beloved pet pigeons, a representation of the comforts of home and of his capacity to care for something more vulnerable than he is.

While the gritty, everyday realities of Sami and his family are depicted, as could be seen above, it is secondary to Sami’s anxieties over his pet pigeons and how helpless they must be without him to take care of them. For a young boy who has lost practically everything, clinging on to something familiar that provides a sense of empowerment may be the only thing that keeps him breathing.

This type of healing came in the form of a dove, canary, pigeon, a rose finch – fleeting, flying creatures who sought refuge in Sami’s longing to nurture and care for beings that are even worse off than he is. Somehow, his furry friends repaired something that is fractured within him, allowing him to transcend his own pain, and reach out to another in need. This one is definitely a keeper.

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Singapore. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she serves as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads or meeting up with her book club friends, she is smashing that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life.

13 comments on “[Monday Reading] Finding Home in the Clouds with “My Beautiful Birds” and “King of the Sky”

  1. Your breakdowns of King of the Sky and My Beautiful Birds is actually pretty beautiful. I feel like a tear almost came to my eye reading about My Beautiful Birds in particular, it has such a deep and heartbreaking message. I believe it would be perfect as you said for helping young children to understand what’s going on in the wider world as well as to help them to begin to understand compassion.


  2. I’ve read both of these books, Myra, and only wish I could share them with a class, to discuss the poignant feelings shown in the stories. They are so special, text and illustrations.


  3. Such beautiful, beautiful books. And My Beautiful Birds is Canadian, which makes it even better. 😉


  4. Jana Eschner

    Both of these books are on my To Read list. King of the Sky looks especially meaningful because making a decision to move to a new place to live or to make a big change in your life is never easy for kids or grownups. It looks like this book speaks to the feelings of loneliness and self-doubt that come when we move down a different path. Thanks for sharing and have a great week.


  5. Pussreboots

    I was just thinking of reading My Beautiful Birds. It was recommended to me over the weekend. Now that I’ve seen your post, I’m going to add it to my wishilst. I’m getting ready for the new year. Come see what I’m looking forward to and what I’m reading now.


  6. Whoa. The art in My Beautiful Birds is gorgeous.


  7. crbrunelle

    I really enjoyed My Beautiful Birds.


  8. Did you deliberately pick two pigeon books, or was that a happy coincidence?


  9. Great pairing. Will check out these books.


  10. I need to find King of the Sky. Nicola Davies writes such beautiful stories. My Beautiful Birds was a fascinating story.


  11. I don’t get to see many new picture books anymore, with my sons grown, but these look good!

    Enjoy your books this week –


    Book By Book


  12. Love this pairing! I know the Nicola Davies book, but the other was new to me.

    Happy reading this week 🙂


  13. These look like wonderful books.


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