“Once there was a girl with a parrot on her head.”
That’s Isabel, and her friend Simon happens to be “very good with newts.” Screen prints emulate a child’s simple, scribbly style, depicting two brown-skinned children who clearly have much in common. “But one day Simon went away in a truck, and he never came back.” The text continues, “For a while Isabel hated everything.” She even alienates her parrot, until the day she decides she “likes being on her own.” She’s got a parrot on her head—who needs friends? She boxes up all the toys she and Simon used to play with (including a teepee), but both she and the parrot are a little concerned that “one of the wolves might be too big.” A big box they find on the sidewalk should do the trick, but “something was already inside”: a brown-skinned boy named Chester, who helps Isabel convince the too-big wolf to leave the city for the wilderness and then convinces Isabel that “the space station really needed two astronauts.” Hirst’s debut is deliciously elliptical and totally child-centered—Isabel may have a parrot, but she does not appear to have any parents. Her declarative text gets inside the head of her imaginative protagonist, respecting her turbulent feelings of loss and her trepidation at making a new friend.
A salutary reminder that however devastating a loss may be, new connections are worth the risk. (Picture book. 2-5)