Books about urban animals usually rely heavily on birds and squirrels. This is understandable, of course, there aren't many bears and tigers wandering around busy metropolitan avenues. If children's picture books are any guide, these small animals bring out the nurturing side of us city humans. Already I've written about several books in which humans look out for birds (Subway Sparrow, How to Heal a Broken Wing, for starters), birds is one of the larger categories in my card catalog, and I have at least 4 more bird books sitting in my to-write-about pile.
Matteo Pericoli based his picture book The True Story of Stellina on an encounter his future wife had with a baby wild finch. Holly sees the little abandoned bird in a nest inside a traffic light post in New York City. She takes the bird home and nurtured the creature who learns to eat and fly in the small apartment. The text of this story is exceedingly gentle. Stellina invades the hearts of her new parents by singing along to the shower and piano, landing on the artist's pencil or watching her new mother dance.
Even though the story is sweet, Pericoli wisely resists normalizing the relationship between wild bird and humans. Thoughout Stellina's life she wonders, "And now? What's going to happen now?" There is no maudlin death scene but Pericoli does mention that Stellina died after living for eight years. He does it in such a gentle way, however, which celebrates both her relationship with the humans and connects her to what her life might have been like with other birds.
Pericoli's line drawings and subtle watercolor palette are the perfect illustrative accompaniment. Many thanks to Chicken Spaghetti for turning me on to this book.
Visit Matteo Pericoli's website.
Read my review of his other fantastic children's book, Tommaso and the Missing Line.
Big Kid loves to look at Pericoli's book See the City, a fold out book of the Manhattan skyline.
I love his book, The City Out My Window: 63 View on New York.
Big Kid says: What kind of bird was that?
Little Kid says: Cheep! Cheep!