A bag and a bird by Pamela Allen

cover image

Penguin Viking, 2017. ISBN 9780143783909
(Age: 3+) Highly recommended. Birds, Sydney, Waste, Rubbish, Environment, Responsibility. What begins as a simple tale of a boy and his mother packing a sandwich and walking to the Botanic Gardens in Sydney, becomes a plea for ensuring the safety of our environment.
The boy and his mother makes their sandwiches, put them into plastic bags, then into their backpacks and walk across Sydney Harbour Bridge, past the Opera House to the gardens. There they eat their sandwiches which of course attracts the attention of a group of seabirds. With one sandwich left in the bag, a bird grabs it. After the birds have had their fill one bird finds the plastic bag caught around its neck. But as it tries to fly away the bag fills with air. It impedes the bird's flight and it plummets down, the air filled bag acting like a parachute until it reaches the bay. It then fills with water and drags the bird down. Frantic, the bird struggles, but it is only when a man wades into the water, that the bird is saved.
The elderly man does this at some risk to himself, his wife reminding him that he cannot swim, but he goes in despite having to go out beyond his depth. Coming back to shore he gently helps the bird escape the plastic and the crowd which has now gathered cheers the bird as it flies away. The boy puts the plastic bag into the bin, making sure it is down as deeply as he can push it.
Stunningly illustrated the sights and scenes around one of the world's most beautiful harbours is recreated by Allen. The birds are wonderful, and I particularly love the drawing of the ibis trying to fly with the bag behind it, eventually being dragged back down to the sea. The illustrations sweep across the page, taking the eye and heart with them. Children will be concerned about the trapped bird and relieved when a rescuer appears from the crowd.
This is a cautionary tale of the dangers that plastic bags present to our environment, encouraging children to see that the simple act of binning these can be immensely helpful to our wildlife, while the map of Sydney Harbour on the endpapers, encourages visual recognition of places mentioned in the text.
Fran Knight