On the eve of losing everything and with danger still ahead, a mother and daughter exhibit the perseverance of the human spirit in wartime.
At the beginning of this Norwegian import, a mother and her daughter find a dry place in their roofless and almost wall-less house to sleep. Mama comforts her daughter, the narrator, with the story of a large bird that descends from the mountains as night falls and spreads its wings over their house to protect them from danger. Dark, foreboding illustrations show the protagonists in a state of terror and shock, their city ravaged by war. When the girl wakes up, the bird is there, its head enormous next to her slim body. “Have you forgotten everything? it asks. / … / All the wonderful things that were here before.” Then, one by one, it reminds the girl of the warm, happy memories that are still inside her, and as they manifest on the page, they gradually lift up her spirit and add color to the book. The girl and mother can leave after she sees “all the colors in the sky,” the bird says. What’s most important is to “stay together.” In Duzakin’s soft-edged illustrations, mother and daughter have pale skin and straight, black hair; their home is unspecified, but architectural and decorative details suggest Eastern Europe. The book ends with the mother and child on the move with a few bags, looking at a vista of their shattered town illuminated by a rainbow in the sky and holding each other’s hands.
A heart-penetrating, heartbreaking book with exceptional mastery in text and illustration. (Picture book. 8-14)