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TEN BIRDS by Jürg Amann


by Jürg Amann ; illustrated by Helga Gebert ; translated by David Henry Wilson

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7358-4100-0
Publisher: NorthSouth

Ten birds frolic in fractured count-down number rhymes.

Ten birds, most with identifying hats and cloaks, open this series of misfortunes in a wordless double-page spread showing a concert that, from their expressions, must be more cacophonous than musical. Then disaster happens: “Ten fine birds were sitting in a line / When the fence got smashed, / which was not a good sign, / So then there were NIGN.” Similar calamities follow, each with its ending number misspelled to fit the rhyme. The verses appear on the left-hand pages, along with a pictorial hint about which bird will disappear. On the facing page, bordered at the top and bottom with white, are Gebert’s illustrations of each catastrophe. (Some details are left for readers’ imaginations, as when the “six scared birds” encounter a crocodile.) But all ends well. Readers will have to judge for themselves whether it’s the parent owl or child that leaves the nest to “WUN,” but the eggs inside miraculously hatch all 10 again. They end the tale with a quiet picnic. Wilson's clever translation of the German Mit großem Krach: Vom Reimen auf Biegen und Brechen (2012) preserves the tortured rhymes and most of the mispronunciations of the numbers.

Even children who can’t yet read will get at least a portion of the joke. (Picture book. 5-9)