The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown Book Review

The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrations by Christian Robinson
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: March 1, 2016

When a group of children find a bird lying on the sidewalk, they are sad to find that it has died. Instead of passing on their way, the children decide to say good-bye. In the park, they dig a hole and cover it in flowers. They speak sweet words over it and sing a song.

A re-illustrated edition of one of Margaret Wise Brown's classic stories, The Dead Bird feels like one of those books that would never have gotten published nowadays. Beautiful in its simplicity, the book is about death, a subject that is relegated to the "issues" section of the bookstore these days. I have met so many parent's these days that try to shield their children from such a subject that I imagine they aren't going to be terribly happy about this one. I mean, I had parents returning That's My Hat because the rabbit is eaten in the end. Then there is the whole children-touching-dead-animals thing that may upset modern parents too.

What I love about this book though is that it is helping perpetuates the idea that death is just a part of life. Life should be respected, as should death. I think it is important to talk about death with children not only because it is a part of life, but so that they understand the concept before they have to deal with it. Less traumatic that way. The new illustrations are quite lovely and much more colorful than the original.


Anonymous said...

You disagree, then, with the NY Times book reviewer. I think the NYT reviewer missed the point: that children have a tremendous capacity for empathy that should be nurtured to help them become good citizens of the world and not only concerned with those whom they have a direction connection. They can witness the death of someone they don't know personally, and respond with compassion, perhaps giving to a charity or helping strangers in their community who are in need of assistance.

Unknown said...

I agree. I think it does a child a disservice to shelter them from the "hard stuff", avoiding topics like illness, disease, poverty, prejudice, and death. There are so many wonderful stories of children who have done fundraisers, marathons, and community service events just because someone (presumably a parent) taught them about the hard stuff and empathy.