A Home for Bird, written and illustrated by Philip C. Stead, is a beautiful story of friendship, persistence and kindness. The events are simple and straightforward: A frog named Vernon makes a new friend, Bird, and sets out to find him a home.
Vernon is one of my new favorite animal characters. He is a collector (the book starts when he is “out foraging for interesting things”) and he clearly collects friends as well as odd objects. Skunk and Porcupine are sympathetic to Vernon’s predicament when Bird won’t talk, and they suggest that maybe Bird needs a home. So the two friends set off, in a teacup boat (which recalls the kettle voyage that the Borrowers make), through junkyards and forests and finally (with the help of some telephone wire sitting birds) by balloon. Only then does Vernon start to rethink the journey, saying “I hope this was a good idea.” But all the traveling is worth it, because at the end of the road, Bird does find a home, one where he is clearly meant to be, and Vernon is happy.
The pictures in this book, created with water-soluble crayon and gouache, are both loose (in the backgrounds and lines) and detailed (the truck bears the logo ‘Careful Moving Co.’ as objects fly off the back). Stead goes into detail on his blog http://philipstead.com/blog/ about the process he went through to create both the story and the pictures, and the background is well worth reading for anyone who is interested in picture books. The humor in the pictures comes from the reader being able to make distinctions that the animals don’t notice, such as the fact that bird is a wooden object, and not real. Vernon’s expressions are delightful, from sadness to optimism to worry to his victory gesture at the end.
This is a lovely story to read aloud to others or to read to yourself, as a reminder that the best friends are those who want you to be happy and go to great lengths to help you find your place in the world.
A Home for Bird, written and illustrated by Philip C. Stead; Roaring Brook Press, $16.99. Ages 3-6