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THE STRANGE EGG by Mary Newell DePalma


by Mary Newell DePalma & illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma

Pub Date: March 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-618-09507-1
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

An odd little tale of fruit and friendship. A black bird with stick legs finds a strange orange object. After listening, sniffing, jiggling, peeking, pecking, and poking, she decides it must be an egg and perches on top to hatch it. A watching monkey laughs at her and shows her that it is in fact an orange. After they eat it, the bird plants one of the seeds, and the “monkey and the bird became friends and shared many, many oranges.” Literal readers will wonder how a bird that doesn’t even recognize an orange knows enough to plant a seed, and will marvel at the speed with which the resulting tree grows. The strength here lies in the originality of DePalma’s mixed-media illustrations, which depict the bird as a plucky, wide-eyed innocent willing to take on the world. Hand-drawn frames vary in size, sometimes appearing in a series on the page and pacing the text perfectly. Monkey and bird both break out of the frame occasionally, and almost dizzying shifts in perspective detail the growth in the characters’ friendship. There is real humor in the illustrations, the highlight of the book being a spread where both eat and then spit out the orange seeds with endearing verve. The story is so slight and metaphorical, however, that it has difficulty carrying the energetic illustrations, and it ends up a piece of charming whimsy rather than a tale with real substance. (Picture book. 4-8)