Kirkus Reviews QR Code
ELSIE'S BIRD by Jane Yolen Kirkus Star


by Jane Yolen & illustrated by David Small

Age Range: 4 - 10

Pub Date: Sept. 2nd, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-399-25292-1
Publisher: Philomel

Elsie moves with her widowed father from bustling 19th-century Boston to the vast Nebraska plains, where she misses the hymns, play songs and hum of her Eastern city. Yolen’s measured, moving verse shimmers with brilliantly honed images and sharp details. Readers won’t forget the “maple chest / packed with linens her mother had sewn / over the long year before she died.” Ink, watercolor and pastel illustrations, both fluid and precise, suggest the brisk movement of the external world and the subtlety of internal emotions. Lithe strokes of color and line describe rippling fields, the arc of a jump-rope and even grief in the face of a father. Masterfully composed full- and half-page spreads frequently place Elsie in upper and outer quadrants, with grasses, land, buildings and bare rooms pushing her into the periphery. She appears marginalized by larger forces, making it easy for young children to empathize with this small, displaced girl who can’t see Nebraska’s wild, rambling beauty or hear the musical buzz of its insects. This poignant and powerful picture book closes with an uplifting rising of prairie voices--music to Elsie’s ears. (Picture book. 4-10)