A bird learns the value of freedom in this import from China via Australia.
Sweetie the wild myna (a type of starling native to Asia) loves freedom and the ability to sing at will that comes with it. Soon Sweetie comes across an urban human family that seems “happy and friendly,” and the bird decides to join it, surrendering to captivity and the family’s joy in its new pet. Sweetie recognizes the family’s kind treatment: Sweetie has a comfortable cage, excellent food, and company now and again. But no matter what the family does, something still feels wrong to Sweetie, who has lost all desire to sing and thinks only of freedom. When the family finally realizes why Sweetie is “always so melancholy,” they drive the bird “back to the mountains” and to what appears to be a cross between a zoo and a nature preserve (the lettering above the entrance is the only text not translated into English from Chinese). Sweetie, now joyous, flies blissfully over the “jungle” of captive animals, unaware or uncaring of the other animals who stare, perhaps longingly, after the bird. Black, cut-paper silhouettes backed on tan paper mix with sporadic background pencil sketches to create quiet but intricate illustrations. Stiff language (“I am a myna who loves to fly and sing joyfully”), as flat as the silhouettes, undercuts the effectiveness of the emotional message.
Perhaps “Sweetie” would more aptly be named “Bittersweet.” (Picture book. 2-7)