An appealing picture book that takes a traditional theme about being satisfied with your life and successfully updates it.
Crow has always been happy living in the woods. Then, one day, he sees a snow-white dove cooing in her nest. Her feathers are so beautiful and her cooing so soothing that Crow thinks she must be the happiest bird alive. However, dove tells him that she thinks the Nightingale must be the happiest bird in the world because the Nightingale’s singing is magnificent. Crow asks Nightingale but he thinks the Cockerel must be the happiest bird in the world because every morning his call is heard across the land. Crow heads off to ask the Cockerel, then the Swan and, finally, the Peacock. Only then does Crow discover the true meaning of happiness.
This is an appealing picture book that takes a traditional theme about being satisfied with your life and successfully updates it. The story is simple but flows well and the deliberate repetition will help children remember and join in. There’s a particularly good double ending. In the first ending, Crow learns about the joy of freedom that he has previously taken for granted. The second ending is even better, although it does need the accompanying illustration to have maximum impact. (Spoiler Alert – Crow returns to “share his happiness” and the picture shows him releasing Peacock from a cage).
In addition to encouraging acceptance and kindness, the book has the added educational advantage that it can introduce young readers to many different types of birds, their calls, characteristics, and attributes. This, combined with the important messages and bold simple pictures, probably makes it a perfect book for use in the classroom.
The illustrations are bright, colourful and heavily stylised. In many respects they reminded me of the style of Eric Carle in his classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar or, less well-known, The Bad-Tempered Ladybird. I especially loved the huge smiling sun in the scene between Crow and the Cockerel.
If you enjoyed this and would like another simple story about fitting in and finding your place in the world, why not try Cyril The Lonely Cloud by Tim Hopgood. Alternatively, if you’d like something a bit different but with similar strongly stylised pictures, you might like to try Leap Frog by Jane Clarke and Britta Teckentrup.
Date: April 2020
Publisher: Oxford University Press