The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubic
Book Island, 2015. ISBN 9780994109873
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Originally published in French in Canada and now published in more than 15 countries around the world, this is a heart-warming tale of an unlikely friendship between an overall-wearing lion and a bird with a broken wing. There are 40 double pages here, but only around 20 with text. Furthermore, each contains only one sentence, often only one word. The limited text means that the illustrations have to do most of the work, and they do this so well. The artwork is spectacular. It is soft and textural with an earthy colour palette of browns, blues and greens. In a minimalist style, Dubic puts onto each page only those elements which help to tell the story and show the passing of time. There is a cinematic, silent film quality here; you could just as easily ignore the text altogether and the artwork would do the job just as well. High quality paper adds to the earthy feel of this book and the matte illustrations suit the solidity of the thick pages.
The story itself is about a lion who takes care of a bird with a broken wing when the rest of the flock fly away for the winter. Soon the pair is enjoying the winter together: reading in front of the fire, taking sleigh rides and keeping warm out of the snow. Blank pages help to show the all-encompassing whiteness of the snowy weather. Soon the warm weather is back and the bird must re-join his flock. The reader waits anxiously alongside the lion to find out whether his friend will join him for the winter again.
This is a gentle and emotive tale exploring themes of friendship, change and loneliness. It is perfect for working with children on inference and exploring how we can tell a story with pictures alone. It also lends itself to discussions around seasons and change as the changing landscape is an integral feature of the book. This is a wonderful title for one on one sharing as it allows for rich discussion and up-close appreciation of the illustrations.