Posts tagged David Macaulay

A TurtleAndRobot Book List: 15 Picture Books featuring Birds

It is not uncommon for a child to latch onto a specific subject and then focus intensely on that one thing for a time. When such obsessions begin, the book purchaser’s job suddenly becomes easier and imbued with a new sense of fun—any book containing that subject will be an instant winner. But once the obvious choices pertaining to that topic have been exhausted, choosing books can become a painful, and fruitless, process. Buyer beware- that T.V. tie-in title that pertains to your child’s interest may be tempting but I assure you there are always higher quality choices still undiscovered.

I compiled this list of fiction picture books for people with a bird-loving child in their lives. Angelo by David Macaulay, a phenomenal and underappreciated book, is about a pigeon that brightens the life of an elderly stone worker. Bob Staake’s Bluebird spotlights an attentive bird that befriends a boy who is being bullied by his classmates. Whether the cobalt-hued hero of Bluebird is an actual bluebird or just a bird that is blue isn’t made clear, but that won’t matter to those who choose this remarkable wordless picture book. The remaining titles feature generalized, i.e. not necessarily naturalistic birds of a recognizable breed, as their main characters.


Inch by InchInchByInch

Ages 3-7

By Leo Lionni

32 pages



1961 Caldecott Honor Book


Time FliesTimeFlies

Ages 3-7

By Eric Rohman

32 pages

Crown Publishers


1995 Caldecott Honor Book


A Home for BirdHomeforBird

Ages 3-7

By Phil C. Stead

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press



See TurtleAndRobot’s full review here.


Hello, My Name is RubyRuby

Ages 3-7

By Philip C. Stead

36 pages

Roaring Brook Press



Flap Your WingsFlapYourWings

Ages 3-8

By P.D. Eastman

48 pages

Random House


(Also by P.D. Eastman, Are You My Mother? and The Best Nest)


The BirdwatchersTheBirdwatchers

Ages 3-8

By Simon James

32 pages



Out of print


Little Red BirdLittleRedBird

Ages 3-8

By Nick Bruel

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press



Poppy and EllaPoppy&Ella

Ages 3-9

By Jef Kaminsky

48 pages



Out of print


Franny B. Kranny, There’s a Bird in Your HairFrannyBKranny

Ages 3-9

Written by Harriet Lerner and Susan Goldhor

Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

40 pages



Out of print


13 Words13Words

Ages 4-7

Written by Lemony Snickett

Illustrated by Maira Kalman

40 pages




See TurtleAndRobot’s full review here.



Ages 4-8

By Bob Staake

40 pages

Schwartz & Wade



A Funny Little Bird

Ages 4-8

By Jennifer Yerkes

48 pages

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky



Feathers for LunchFeathersForLunch

Ages 4-9

By Lois Ehlert

36 pages

HMH Books for Young Readers




Ages 4-9

By David Macaulay

48 pages

HMH Books for Young Readers



The Life of BirdsLifeofBirds

Ages 5 and up

By Quentin Blake

80 pages

Doubleday UK


Out of print

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Black and White: Four connected stories, one amazing book.

Black and White


Picture Book

Ages 4-8

By David Macaulay

32 pages

Houghton Mifflin Company

Published 1990

1991 Caldecott Medal Winner


David Macaulay has published books for varying ages and he’s a master, no matter the subject. In his non-fiction works, such as Pyramid (1975), The New Way Things Work (1998)*, or Building Big (2000), his writing makes very technical subjects approachable, understandable and captivating. He illustrates those works in a highly detailed, realistic style. His first book, Cathedral (1973), was awarded a Caldecott honor. The American Institute of Architects has also given Macaulay a medal for being “an outstanding illustrator and recorder of architectural accomplishments.”

In his picture books, Macaulay’s ease with words lures readers into his stories. He alters his artistic style to accommodate the tone of the story and, regardless of medium or technique, his art is always pleasing and inviting. I have previously reviewed his picture book, Baaa (1985). You can expect to see more of his books reviewed here in the future.

Black and White begins with a warning:

The next spread has four separate panels, each in a different illustration style, each one beginning a different story. Some panels have no words; others have whole blocks of text.

In one story a boy is taking his first solo trip on a train. In another, mostly wordless, story commuters wait on a train platform. There’s a story about some parents exhibiting very odd behavior, and one about some wandering Holstein cows.

Slowly, the different illustration styles begin to meld and overlap, the stories collide, and everything comes together to form quite an amazing book. Though I’ve categorized it for children ages four to eight, I think there’s plenty here to interest older children as well.

Readers can begin by going through each story individually and read through the book four times, or the stories can be read all together, making only one trip through. I have done both, several times, and I recommend doing the same. This book offers a great lesson on perspective, as well as an example of how truth can still be truth even if it’s from an entirely different point of view.

* The New Way Things Work is an updated version of The Way Things Work, originally published in 1988.

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Baaa: This satirical picture book is grim, fascinating, humorous and clever.



Middle Reader

Ages 10 and up

By David Macaulay

64 pages

Houghton Mifflin



In the course of his career, David Macaulay has employed several different illustration styles. He’s an amazing artist, regardless of the medium, and a true genius. Seriously, he won the MacArthur Foundation Award—aka, The Genius Award—in 2006. The art in Baaa is black and white and beautifully done. Macaulay uses light and shade perfectly and creates texture and depth with cross hatching and carefully spaced lines.

Though this is a heavily illustrated book, the story is not for younger children. Because of the bleak subject, I’ve categorized it as a middle reader but I think there are many aspects to be appreciated by older children, teens and adults.

Baaa is a parable about overpopulation, borrowing ideas from George Orwell’s 1984 and Soylent Green, the 1973 film. Instead of people, Baaa is sheep. This satirical picture book is grim, fascinating, humorous and clever.

“There is no record of when the last person disappeared. The only person who could have recorded when the last person disappeared was the last person to disappear.”

Sometime later, sheep begin to wander from their pastures into the now deserted towns. After they’ve eaten all the flowers and grass and potted plants, they move into the houses and grocery stores.

When a television in an abandoned house is accidentally turned on, several sheep sit mesmerized by the glow emanating from the screen. Eventually they learn to operate the machines attached to the TV’s and they’re able to watch movies.

More time passes and the sheep learn to speak and read. Slowly, they learn to be more and more like humans. They inhabit the homes the people left behind, and learn to drive cars. They establish schools, travel and pursue careers; leaders emerge from the pack. Times are prosperous and the population increases.

But before long, the lines at markets begin to grow, traffic moves more slowly and grocery items are in short supply. Items must be rationed, but it’s never done fairly. Hungry sheep turn to crime. More and more sheep are unhappy and riots break out.

Just as things seem to be at their worst, there’s a miraculous end to the food shortage and a brand new product on the shelves!

Everyone is eating it and everyone loves it. Soon there’s a shortage of Baaa and the unrest returns. Armed forces return the peace. Baa returns to the shelves. The cycle repeats and the population declines, until there’s just two sheep left. They meet for lunch.

“There is no record of when the last one disappeared.”

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