Hurley’s penchant for textile design is clearly apparent in this debut picture book.
Japanese-style, flat, colored illustrations depict scenes in the life of a family of American robins, from hatching, feeding, learning to fly and social interactions among birds through changing weather and foliage. Even the endpapers are part of the story, showing simple robins’ egg shapes. Unfortunately, this style of illustration is inherently static, and its paucity of detail is unlikely to hook children’s interest, especially where wildlife is concerned. The too-empty spreads lack real interest or substance, presenting the birds and trees as designer shapes rather than living entities. A single word placed on each spread offers a short gloss on each illustration, but beyond the obvious progress through seasons, the relationships among the words are frequently ambiguous. Readers are more or less left to tell the story on their own, belying the book’s apparent simplicity. The author’s note describing the life cycle and behavior patterns of the American robin is necessary, as it gives information mostly lacking in the rest of the book.
This superficial robin’s-eye view of a year does not really get off the ground. (Picture book. 2-5)