I’m torn about Bob Staake’s new picture book, Bluebird. It could “live” in one of three places:
– Picture books for young children. That’s the “official” library categorization. The storyline is deceptively simple: a wordless picture book about a lonely young boy who forms a friendship with a cute blue bird. After a bullying incident, the bird dies. But…other birds appear who guide their fallen friend into…unclear, but I think a peaceful entry to elsewhere.
– Picture books for older readers. Staake’s book raises big questions about kindness, death, and the life sustaining value of friendship. I definitely plan to read Bluebird with a group of 6th or 7th grade students and ask them to interpret the book’s ending.
– It should also go on a “best books to give” list. Bluebird would be a meaningful and memorable gift.
As I was writing this, a 6th grade boy came into the library. “Here,” I said. “Can you look at this and tell me about it.” A few minutes later, he asked “is it about heaven?” We couldn’t decide if it was happy or sad – which is part of what makes Bluebird special. It is incredibly moving without resorting to easy sentiment – it’s more thoughtful and elegant than that. And it’s so beautiful. Staake uses a subtle blue and gray palette until the other birds arrive and they add splashes of color that gave me a lump in my throat.
Here’s what is actually going to happen to this copy of Bluebird. I am keeping it – and will buy another copy for the Inly Library which will not be shelved in any one place, but rather left out for our students, parents and staff to enjoy anytime.