Henney (Princess Trinka and Basil, 2015, etc.) returns to the forest with a quaint story of two feathered friends who discover there’s no place like home.
Two bird friends—a naughty blue jay and an industrious woodpecker—live in an aviary but want to be out in the free, wild world. This gentle story has a predictable plot, as the two birds escape, have a couple of misadventures with unfriendly birds and scary human noises, and then long for the safety and comforts of home. This modest tale can be read by children 6 and older, and it’s accompanied by cute black-and-white drawings, such as of the wide-eyed birds as they cry fat tears of joy after returning home. The book’s tone is soft and the text sometimes directly addresses readers; for example, Woodpecker, alone and frightened in the forest, hears loud, human noises, and the narrator asks, “Do you suppose it was some children with BB guns shooting at the birds and little animals? Maybe they did not realize that the forest was home to so many different birds and animals.” When Bluejay and Woodpecker plot their escape from the aviary, the book’s style is reminiscent of a Highlights magazine hidden-pictures puzzle as the narrator asks readers if they can find the blue jay. (He’s relatively easy to find.) There are also humorous moments, such as when the blue jay earns the nickname “Naughty” from humans, after doing things like swooping down and raking his claws through an aviary helper’s hair. Some of the wild animals are aggressive, but others are likable, such as an owl who stands at the entrance of the woodpecker’s tree hole and turns out to be a friendly sort. Children and parents may question why two common birds like a blue jay and a woodpecker are being confined in the first place, but this story could effectively complement a study of conservation, captivity, and animals in the wild. It could also be used in a lesson on how the grass always seems greener on the other side.
An easy reader that may be used as fodder for group discussion.