Title: Scary Bird
Author: Michael Streich
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Published: October 2020
Synopsis: There’s a new bird in the aviary . . .
and everyone’s in a flap!
He’s strange and different . . . and SCARY!
Will the scary bird ever feel at home with the others?
A fresh and funny take on migration and learning to embrace newcomers.
- Ages 3+
- A colourful, witty and light-hearted story of
difference, adjusting, and learning to embrace
- Scary Bird’s story opens gentle discussion for broad
themes for varying ages – from starting in a new
school to migration and refugees.
- Themes: birds, wildlife, migration, immigration,
refugees, newcomers, integration, home, moving, difference, friendship, family, foreigners, fear of the unknown, culture, traditions, languages
The aviary is calm Until a new bird arrives. He looks different, he speaks differently and isn’t like the other birds at all. They fear him and try to reject him. they don’t even listen when a mouse points out that all the birds are exotic, but this gentle story eventually shows that the new bird is accepted by those already there.
Children are never too young to learn about the challenges of being different, and about accepting these differences. Using animal characters can be a clever way to do this, especially in picture books like this lovely one that Scholastic sent me tor review for them.
Children’s literature has the scope to explore seemingly difficult themes in ways that children of all ages can understand, in language and images they can understand. As they get older, the stories, themes and characters grow in complexity, and at times, the setting becomes specific and concrete. Yet a picture book like this, where the setting is an aviary, and where the bird rejected is different, is at the same time specific and general.
It shows that anybody who looks or sounds different can be rejected, but is a story that will work to start conversations with children about refugees, racism, starting a new school, migration and many other topics where difference might be something people focus on negatively, and create a safe space to talk about how this makes children feel, and ways to prevent it. The themes of immigration reflect not only the author’s own life, but the lives of many Australians, who have either emigrated here, or have one, or both parents born overseas in 2020.
Scary Bird can teach adults and children about tolerance and sharing, and accepting differences and people of all kinds. The illustrations, also by Michael, further punctuate the words and message of the narrative. The beauty is in the simplicity of the colours and lines, demarcates difference, and shows these differences as scary at first, It then reveals the reality of someone’s true, kind nature below the surface and finding out who they are, and accepting everything different and unique about them is also a prevalent and powerful message.
This beautiful story is aimed at kids aged three and older, and even readers who are independent readers, and much older will get something of value from this book. It is exceptional and powerful in its simplicity, and I recommend it to everyone.