Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Of A Feather...Together Again

If you take a moment or two to watch birds, they have valuable lessons to teach us.  After watering flowers in an otherwise rainless few weeks, they will gather to feast on worms among the wet areas.  They will enjoy this meal together, robins and mourning doves.  Walking down a road or street, looking skyward, you might see a different story unfold.  A group of smaller birds will be chasing and diving after a larger bird.  The large bird has been making a pest of itself probably around a nest.

Companionship is built on similar values; mutual respect for differences allows for shared time together.  Two unlikely friends introduced to readers in Nerdy Birdy (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, September 22, 2015) written by Aaron Reynolds with pictures by Matt Davies have returned in Nerdy Birdy Tweets (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, August 1, 2017).  The lure of social media comes at a price.

This is Nerdy Birdy.

Nerdy Birdy loves playing video games.

This is Vulture.

Vulture thinks video 
games are boring.
Vulture loves snacking on
dead things.

It's hard to believe a small, glasses-wearing bird is best friends with a looming vulture but it's true.  Most of all they enjoy teasing each other about their lunches, making silly faces and taking pictures of those silly faces.  As strange as this relationship is, it works until one day Nerdy Birdy starts to play a new game called Tweetster.

Tweetster involves getting friends online.  These friends can or cannot send you messages, play games with you and exchange pictures.  To Nerdy Bird's amazement he soon has hundreds of friends; including a flamingo, an ostrich and even a puffin living in Iceland.

To Vulture this is boring with a capital B.  No matter what she does, even pointing out how she could eat Nerdy Birdy in one big gulp, Nerdy Birdy is hooked on Tweetster.  Vulture flies away.  Hours later Nerdy Birdy notices.

In an effort to continue their friendship Vulture joins Tweetster.  All is well but Nerdy Birdy makes a mistake, sending something to his Tweetster friends without asking Vulture.  Vulture flies away again and does not come back.

An entire week passes and there is no sign of Vulture.  Nerdy Birdy seeks helps and gets startling answers.  Sometimes the best thing is right in front of you. A flight focuses on friendship.  Compromise isn't everything, it's the only thing. Tweet! Tweet!

When author Aaron Reynolds spins this tale of friendship he does so with a sure knowledge of the essence of friends forged in real life as opposed to those garnered only online.  With a sense of humor he points to the chief characteristics of Nerdy Birdy and Vulture, but then follows with those three activities they relish together.  When Nerdy Birdy is captivated by Tweetster, again Aaron uses the technique of three.  Within the story line as a whole a rhythm is generated with actions and conversations in sets of three (or more).

In keeping with the flow of the narrative Nerdy Birdy's mistake becomes a gentle lesson on social media manners as well as reminding readers how friends need to think before they act.  Aaron also covers what a real friend will do to maintain a relationship.  Here is a sample passage.

"Let's do

"In a minute."

"This is not fun."

"Did you realize I 
can fit your whole
body in my beak?
I could eat you in
one bite if I wanted."


When you look at Nerdy Birdy playing Tweetster on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case, you know he's hooked.  His entire focus is on the screen; his eyes, tiny wings and whole body give us that signal.  It's a wonderful design element to have a portion of the title as a text message on the new game.  To the left, on the back, a disgusted Vulture is glaring at Nerdy Birdy.  Her neck is extended downward and her large wings are placed on her hips.

The opening and closing endpapers are a dusty blue color.  On the title page beneath the text, Nerdy Birdy is tap, tap, tapping on the screen.  Rendered in pen and ink and watercolor on paper the illustrations by Matt Davies are filled with subtle and overt humor; Vulture is carrying an Official Hello Bir.... Lunchb... with a large bone sticking out of it, Nerdy Birdy eats Gluten-, Flavor-, Texture- & Excitement-Free Bread Crumbs, and on the screen of the game a bird is squawking Friend Notification.  This Friend Notification is used as a lightly patterned background on four pages.

What readers will enjoy most are the facial expressions on Vulture and Nerdy Bird.  Sometimes they are looking at each other but other times they are looking right at the reader.  They are burst-out-loud hilarious.  For those moments of increased emphasis, Matt switches out the perspective bringing us close to the characters.  The sizes of the images are altered to enhance the pacing; double-page spreads, a group of smaller pictures on a single page, an illustration set in a large visual or framed panels like in a graphic novel.

One of my many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  Nerdy Birdy is standing still, engrossed in the game on his screen.  Above him is Vulture.  All we see are her eyes and beak.  The beak is open and placed on either side of Nerdy Birdy.  She is trying to make a point and he is completely clueless.  She is looking at us as if to say, "Can you believe this?"

This companion title to Nerdy Birdy, Nerdy Birdy Tweets written by Aaron Reynolds with pictures by Matt Davies, is a humorous and worthy narrative about friendship in light of the use of social media.  It is about being "present" when you are with friends.  It is about being sensitive to the feelings of all our friends, virtual and those we can easily see in our daily lives.  This book is definitely recommended for your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Aaron Reynolds and Matt Davies and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  If you wish to see interior images, follow this link to the publisher's website.  Please refer to the post about the first collaboration to read a fun interview between Aaron Reynolds and Matt Davies.

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