Here’s a link to our page on Lee & Low’s website–if you scroll down, you can read all our fabulous reviews!
And here are some of the reviews:
From the November issue of the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
“Our narrator, Bird (his nickname), likes to draw the birds outside his city window and to hang out with his grandfather’s friend, Uncle Son, despite some recent losses. As the narrative progresses, it becomes clear that though the first mentioned loss is that of Bird’s beloved grandfather, the more devastating bereavement comes from the slow slide of Bird’s older brother, Marcus, into drug addiction, crime, and finally death. Bird’s narration is gently matter of fact, and the episodic portrait of his beloved brother’s decline is touching yet accessibly concrete; though the book’s elliptical treatment of events such as Marcus’ actual death keeps the text out of reach of some younger audiences, the story directly addresses the situation at their level (“Papa told me that if Marcus came by, I wasn’t allowed to let him in. That didn’r make sense to me”), describing the changes in the family even as it’s clear that there’s a solid family structure surviving the tragedy. The illustrations balance bclievably between charcoal and pen sketches, often representing Bird’s own artwork, and watercolor and gouache; precise, detailed draftsmanship grounds the luminous portraiture, while the drawings are credible as those of a genuinely talented kid. The book’s messages~that a brother who destroys himself can still love his younger sibling, and that Bird can remember his brother and still look hopefully to his own future~are lightly handled, and they’ll reassure many youngsters whose worshipped older siblings have feet of clay.”
From the November issue of Bookpage in a special section highlighting new artists:
“The New York City has a long, influential line of graduates (Gregory Christie, Lauren Castillo and Jonathan Bean come to mind) who have made their mark on children’s books. Three new artists from the school have their first books coming out this fall: Shadra Strickland, Hyewon Yum and Tao Nyeu. It’s amazing to think that each of these illustrators did their graduate work at the same school at almost the same time. Bird is the poignant story of one young boy who uses the power of art to cope with the realities of his beloved brother’s drug addiction. Zetta Elliott’s tender, understated story of Bird and his older brother Marcus is illustrated with grace by newcomer Shadra Strickland. Capturing the tragic story with her own nuanced paintings and the of the young Bird, Strickland strikes the right chord between serious and joyful. Many spreads have pictures of birds-flying and free-that remind the young Bird that his brother, while no longer on Earth, is flying in Heaven. For Bird’s brother has died after a lengthy addiction to drugs. Bird has a grandfather and then an uncle who help him cope and understand the incomprehensible. This is a story that needs to be told, and telling it with illustrations makes it more accessible to younger readers.”in
Here’s a mostly excellent review of BIRD from the Oct. 20th issue of PW, with one comment at the end about how the picture book format is too simple for the book’s themes:
“In a promising debut for both Elliott and Strickland, this picture book tells a poignant story about a boy whose loving family, friends and a gift for drawing help him navigate difficult emotions surrounding the deaths of his grandfather and drug-addicted brother. A complicated weaving of impressive watercolor, gouache, charcoal and ink drawings amplifies the metaphors and action of the poetic text as it combines black-and-white with color. Never straying from believable language in casting Mehkai, the child, as narrator, Elliott skillfully unfolds the sequence of events. Both art and text nimbly play with Mehkai’s nickname, Bird, beginning with the image of a shivering bird that, like his brother, seems to be blown away by a gust of wind, and continuing with Uncle Son’s attempt to explain the brother’s death: “‘You can fix a with a splint,/ and a bird can fly again,’ he said./ ‘But you can’t fix a broken soul.’ ” The simplicity of the narrative belies the complexity of the themes; it would be a shame if the picture book format discouraged the proper audience from examining the book.”