Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 4 to 18
- Grade: p to 12
What happens when a bird doesn’t feel like a bird?
Alone with himself, even among his flock, a young bird finds an unexpected connection in the eyes of a little girl. He begins to wonder about the nature of life: What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be a bird? Swept up in his exploration of the human world, he doesn’t notice that his flock has already migrated south for the season. Written by JonArno Lawson and beautifully illustrated by Nahid Kazemi, this sparse, lyrical story is about community lost and found, and what it means to know one’s self.
About the authors
Born in Hamilton, Ontario and raised nearby in Dundas, JonArno Lawson's most formative experiences as a child occurred in Florida which he visited for an extended stay at the age of eight. Happy to be missing almost an entire year of school, he filled his days at the beach digging holes and collecting shells and coconuts, travelling in glass-bottomed boats and touring nature parks that featured free-roaming monkeys and parrots. He wore a ship captain's hat at all times, and a green pouch in which he kept dozens of ticket stubs, a musket ball, brass souvenir coins that bore the faces of various American presidents, and other treasures which he hoards to this day. JonArno is a two-time winner of the Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Children's Poetry, for Black Stars in a White Night Sky in 2007 and again in 2009 for A Voweller's Bestiary. In 2011 his poetry collection Think Again was short-listed for the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award. JonArno lives in Toronto with his wife Amy Freedman and his children Sophie, Ashey and Joseph, all of whom assist the author with phrases, topics and sometimes even complete lines for use in his poems.
NAHID KAZEMIis an artist, illustrator and graphic designer with a master’s degree in painting from Tehran’s University of Art. She has published more than sixty children’s books and has received awards for her illustrations in Iran as well as nominations for the Governor General’s Award and the 2020 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Her recent publications include I’m Glad That You’re Happy, which she wrote and illustrated, and Over the Rooftops, Under the Moon by JonArno Lawson. She has also taught art and has exhibited her work in Iran, France, Italy, the UK, Lebanon and Serbia. Nahid lives in Montreal.
★" In under 100 words, this book pinpoints the modern sensation of urban isolation and the universal search for belonging that defines the human (or in this case, avian) condition. What does it mean to know yourself? How does change affect us? Ultimately, Lawson is hopeful: 'Color arrives, sometimes when you least expect it.'" —STARRED REVIEW, Quill & Quire
"...something to be experienced as a series of quiet stirrings. Strange and beautiful, the book works thanks to the enigmatic power of Nahid Kazemi’s illustrations, which have an abundance of tiny details rendered with such colorful delicacy that the overall sense from page to page is of ethereal softness." —Meghan Cox Gurdon, Wall Street Journal
"Children beginning to understand that they are separate from those who surround them will sense the emotional truth that underpins both pictures and text even if they cannot yet articulate it. This metaphor for the construction of self offers much to thoughtful readers." —Kirkus Reviews
"Teeming with texture and detail, Kazemi’s mixed-media illustrations thoughtfully complement Lawson’s lyrical text and invite readers to take their time observing and examining the art. ...this philosophical title lends itself to interpretation and encourages exploration of the self, both as an independent identity and as part of a community." –Lauren Strohecker, McKinley Elementary School, Elkins Park, PA, School Library Journal
”a spare, uncommonly poetic meditation on belonging and what it means to be oneself as both counterpoint and counterpart to otherness, as a thinking, feeling, wakeful atom of life amid the constellation of other atoms. …The story unfolds with a poet’s precision and economy of words, punctuated by Kazemi’s sprawling, stunning watercolors. What emerges is a gentle invitation to what Bertrand Russell so beautifully termed ‘a largeness of contemplation.’ ” —Maria Popova, Brain Pickings
”The illustrations indicate an outward journey of discovery, covering four wordless double-page spreads that take the bird from its now-snow-covered homeland to a tropical clime. As the bird journeys, its plumage changes from white to multicolored, becoming ever more vibrantly hued. The art contrasts soft, misty colored-pencil images with boldly designed pages showcasing white space (often the bird itself) and shifting planes of perspective.” —Lolly Robinson, The Horn Book
"A thoughtful and reverent book exploring complex yet deeply known feelings of belonging, identity, solitude and reflection. A book that opens wide to made experiences and interpretations." —Wandering Bookseller, Jesica Sweedler DeHart