The rescue of a crane restores an unhappy girl as well.
Left voiceless by a recent illness, Lotus’ only companion is her reed whistle. Gathering reeds and playing her pipe on a lonely lake, the young Chinese girl sees a hunter shoot an endangered red-crowned crane. She rescues it and, with her grandfather, nurses the injured bird she calls Feather back to health. Still flightless, he follows her everywhere. When he dances to her music, her schoolmates dance along. One night, his warnings help save the villagers from a flood. In return, they work to keep hunters from the lake. By the time Feather flies free, Lotus has plenty of friends to keep her company. Downing’s finely crafted illustrations perfectly complement this reassuring story. Done with watercolor, pencil, and paint and digitally collated, they have the look of Chinese paintings, with misty backgrounds and gently bending reeds. The rosy-cheeked children wear red scarves, alluding to the author’s own childhood during the Cultural Revolution. The crane’s many graceful poses are beautifully conveyed, seasons change, and the backgrounds lighten from gray to a celebratory rose. The environmental message, Grandpa’s explanation that “greedy fishermen and hunters, and…ignorant people…took over land where animals once lived,” is slightly contradicted by the satisfying ending when the cranes return, but it may resonate.
Gracefully told and illustrated, a gentle, positive encounter with a beautiful bird in an unfamiliar world. (Picture book. 4-8)