The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Duboc. Translated from the French by Claudia Z. Bedrick. U.S. edition: Enchanted Lion, 2014.
A picture book of great tenderness begins with a lion raking his yard. When a bird from a flock flying high overhead is injured, the lion bandages the bird’s wing, but the flock moves on — autumn is clearly waning. So the lion and the bird spend a snug winter together, warm in his cozy home, sometimes venturing out for some cold-weather fun, the bird tucked into his mane. “It snows and snows. But winter doesn’t feel all that cold with a friend.” Spring brings warm weather, and the return of the other birds. It’s time for the lion and the bird to part. Time passes, lion carries on his solitary life, then it’s autumn again and he wonders about his friend. There is an absence, an ache, and, finally, sweet joy. Marianne Dubuc’s picture book is told largely through beautifully composed, muted illustrations that make use of both full-page spreads and spot illustrations surrounded by white space, with brief lines of lovely narrative punctuating the images every so often. There is a film-like quality to the visual storytelling in this rich, emotionally resonant tale. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
- Read & Talk: On the wordless spreads, ask your child to describe what is happening. Let your child have time with this activity. Use a bookmark so you can come back to the story. Ask your child what their favorite season is and why?
- Write: Together with your child, write a letter to someone they love that lives far away and take a trip to the post office to mail your letter. Create a bookmark for the book.
- Play: Take care of a friend, toy, or imaginary friend by hosting a tea party. Find out what they like they to eat. Act out some of the activities in the book like fishing, sledding, and gardening.
- STEM: Provide dried beans or seeds. Feel them, count them, sort them or plant them in a cup. While sorting, create charts and graphs.
A single word per double-page spread takes very young children through a year in the life cycle of a robin, from “nest” to “hatch” to “explore,” eventually ending with another “nest.” The simple narrative is an accompaniment to the uncluttered, striking, stylized illustrations, each of which is an artful work of graphic design. The art strongly and realistically conveys the beauty of the changing seasons and the drama within and beyond the natural world, as on the “jump” page, where the robins sit in a tree just out of the reach of an eager and interested cat, or “surprise,” which as a purple kite on a taut string flying above their treetop resting place. An author’s note provides additional information about robins. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
- Talk: Talk about the four seasons with your child.
- Sing: Sing “Two Little Blackbirds Sitting in a Tree”. Now replace blackbirds with robins and other birds.
- Write: Collect leaves. Ask children to trace the different parts of leaves – stem, outline, veins – with their fingers. Point out curved and straight lines on the leaves and how letters are made of straight and curved lines.
- STEM: Go for a walk and observe nature. When spring comes, place four inch strands of yarn on tree branches for nest building. Discuss the order of the events in the book.
Find more early literacy activities from the Youth Services Section of the Wisconsin Library Association’s 2015 Early Literacy Calendar created by Youth Services librarians across Wisconsin.