A blue jay convinces the other birds that it can play beautiful music with them in this rhyming, rhythmic first picture book from Hagan (A Big Helping of Southern with a Pinch of Poetry: A Sassy Southern Journal, 2017) with vibrant images by debut illustrator Perrin.
“Jay jay jay / I’m a blue jay, wanna play?” asks a sunglass-wearing, guitar-playing blue jay in the book’s primary refrain. But despite the bird’s attempts, no one wants to jam with him: the hummingbirds harmonize softly; the cardinal insists on being the songbird (to the jay’s exclusion); and the owl is nocturnal. Finally, drummer woodpecker explains that the would-be musician has a bad reputation around the tree. The jay asks the group for one more chance, promises to sing a happy song, and hands out sheet music to the other feathery musicians (and also promises not to eat their young). When the owl wakes up to the musical refrain, it also joins the band. A brief afterword from Hagan gives a short history of the blues and notes that real blue jays may have an unearned negative reputation. Hagan’s words are rhythmic, not always falling into a standard rhyme scheme, but appropriate for evoking the sense of blues music. The design sometimes hinders that rhythm, placing the words in a hard-to-read order. Perrin’s birds are just realistic enough to evoke life around the tree and are well-combined with musical imagery. Unfortunately, many of the same images appear repeatedly throughout the book, which diminishes their effect.
An original, charming animal tale that needs a little more visual variety.