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'How to Heal a Broken Wing'

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[March 04, 2009]  "How to Heal a Broken Wing," by Bob Graham, Candlewick Press, 36 pages, ages 4 and up

Review by
Louella Moreland

Maybe as a reader and parent, I am a sucker for a touching story. Maybe my grandfather's odd collection of unwanted or injured animals still strikes a sentimental chord with me. After all, my grandmother often commented that Grandpa was always bringing home strays, whether two- or four-legged! My childhood was filled with dogs, ducks, rabbits, ponies and other assorted "projects" my grandpa brought home. Whatever the reason the book spoke so strongly to me, Bob Graham's picture book "How to Heal a Broken Wing" had me perusing the pages with misty eyes for countless moments of pleasure.

The story is told through little text and intriguing illustrations. Simple line drawings, washed in places with vivid color, tell this tale of compassion and hope.

A boy is walking with his mother in a large city when he alone spies a pigeon that has been injured when it flew into a skyscraper's window. The boy immediately tugs at his mother's arm, obviously distraught by the bird's plight. In the middle of a busy plaza, the pair gently wrap the injured bird in the mother's scarf, transporting it home via the subway. The boy even brings along one of the bird's feathers that has fallen out.

Upon returning home, the father explains that feathers can't be put back, but sometimes a broken wing could heal. The small family cares for the bird until it can once again fly, whereupon the family returns to the plaza and releases the bird to the wild once again. All that is left behind is the feather and, of course, the memory of how they helped the bird survive.

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When the boy and his mother find the injured bird, the illustrations of the city are drab grays and browns, the peoples' feet rushing past the fallen bird without noticing his need. Only the boy is shown in color, with an almost angelic spread of dazzling light when the boy picks up the bird from the sidewalk. Without a word, the author has let his readers know that this moment is of tremendous importance. The boy has displayed an awareness of his world that the busy adults around him have been blinded from noticing. His compassion for the bird reminds all readers that life in all forms is precious.

Graham has a unique ability to illustrate the boy's world with many detailed and yet simple illustrations, such as the stocking-footed parents, pigeon droppings on the tops of statues and windowsills, the comfortable living room of the family's apartment, and the phases of the moon that show the passing of time as the bird heals. His use of bright color pinpoints the important aspects of the illustrations, while the subdued background washes give the reader context. His use of perspectives always reminds the reader that the story's setting is a large city, while showing that the coziness of home is where people care for each other.

"How to Heal a Broken Wing" is a tale that can speak volumes with the actual use of a few sentences. It is a book that begs to be shared with a child on one's lap, with time to pore over each and every picture. It is an experience that can open doors to many discussions or quietly warm our hearts. My grandfather would have loved this book, and I hope many young readers will as well.

To check out this book and others by Bob Graham, come see us at the Lincoln Public Library, 725 Pekin St.

[Text from file received from Louella Moreland, Lincoln Public Library District]

(Ms. Lou's blog:


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