A Dream of Birds (Shenaz Patel)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Dream of Birds, written by Shenaz Patel, illustrated by Emmanuelle Tchoukriel, and translated by Edwige-Renée Dro, a meditation on the concept of freedom.

On her way to school one morning, Sara spots something new in her neighbor’s yard: a house-shaped birdcage filled with a flock of parakeets. After being chased away by the grumpy neighbor, Sara thinks about the captive birds all day; are they happy in their cage? She remembers the flocks of wild birds that she used to feed with her late grandfather in his backyard, who would visit the old man daily to receive rice then fly off into the sky, free to return when they wished. When Sara finds the neighbor’s birdcage unlocked the next day, she has a decision to make – is it better to do what may be wrong (though she feels it is right), or nothing at all?

I have some pretty mixed feelings about the message of this book. As you might guess, Sara chooses to free her neighbor’s birds, and is punished by her mother for doing so. Yet while I commend the story for a least having some consequences for Sara’s actions, and pointing out that domestically-birds are unlikely to survive in the wild, Sara’s final “dream of birds” essentially brushes this off (“somehow she knows that her birds will be okay”). So while the book strives to create metaphors for freedom and grief, as well as condemn the exotic bird trade, it also presents a pretty big problem by encouraging young readers to essentially steal/destroy property, as well as possibly commit animal cruelty and/or introduce invasive species to an area. By forgiving Sara’s impulsive actions in the name of hope, it approves of her actions, something that will certainly turn most adult caregivers off (it did for me). Tchoukriel’s artwork is absolutely gorgeous, the length is fine for a story, and JJ enjoyed the sprinkling of bird sounds within the text, but overall, the problematic actions of Sara means that this one may be a little inappropriate for any readers that would fall within the standard picture book demographic. Overall, worth a look for bird-lovers, but not one we would necessarily recommend.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)