Fly (Brittany J. Thurman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Fly, written by Brittany J. Thurman and illustrated by Anna Cunha, a joyful tale of a little girl ready to show the world what she’s made of.

On Africa’s inner arm is a birthmark in the shape of her name. It inspires and guides her; today it leads her outside, where she sees a sign advertising a double-Dutch competition. She decides she wants to compete, despite never having double-Dutched before, certain that she has the raw talent. She tries to learn on her own, to no avail. She spends the week asking friends to show her how, but none of them know either. However, they do show her their own talents: stepping, dancing, tumbling, etc. The day of the competition, Africa has plenty of new skills… but she’s still never double-Dutched. Will she still be able to show what she’s made of?

Jubilant and uplifting. Africa’s story is one of community and courage, told in a accessible style with compelling text and rich, gorgeous illustrations. Spoiler alert, Africa does do well at the competition, but more importantly, she was brave enough to try something new, with the support of her friends and family and the knowledge they bestowed, all of which allowed her feet to fly. It’s a subtle metaphor and one that works wonderfully, especially when combined with the metaphor of Africa’s name and birthmark celebrating her heritage and Black identity. Thurman’s text is both lyrical and conversational, and lovely to read aloud; the deep colors and joyful energy of Cunha’s illustrations are a delight for the eyes. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved this one. A wonderful story of tenacity, friendship, and pride, and we recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Fly! (Mark Teague)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the delightful Fly! by Mark Teague, a wordless tale of a baby bird learning to leave the nest.

In a cozy nest perched in a tree, a baby robin grows from a pink, featherless hatchling to a robust fledgling as its father dutifully feeds it worms. When the time comes for the little birdy to spread its wings, the father encourages his little one to try hopping out onto the tree’s branch. Frustrated, the chick does so… only to tumble to the ground below. Winging down to his child, the father notes that the little bird must fly up on their own, as he cannot carry them. And so begins a hilarious negotiation between parent and child of the merits of learning this new (and maybe, possibly, a little bit daunting) skill.

Wonderful! I have to admit, I’m not always the biggest fan of wordless picture books, as they can often feel like less of a shared experience with JJ (mostly due to my own lack of narrative capabilities). Yet this one was filled with such a tight narrative, so much good humor, and so many clever tweaks to the genre that is was a blast to make up our own dialogue. Much of this is due to Teague’s brilliant use of “speech bubbles” that do not display text, but instead smaller pictures that imagine what the characters might be saying. These, combined with the brilliantly-illustrated expressions, convey a clear tone and motivation for each character, providing a structure for their imagined dialogue. Especially funny are the chick’s proposed alternate modes of transportation, such as a sports car, a plane, and a hot air balloon, to name a few. There’s also something nice about the depiction of a single-parent relationship of father and child, a much rarer occurrence in picture books (though it is quite subtle, and those unfamiliar with the gendered markings of robins might be inclined to see the adult bird as a mother). The length is great, and JJ had lots of giggles for the robins’ antics. A fun read for any age, and we recommend it – Baby Bookworm approved!

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