In this children’s picture book, children feed a hungry red cardinal.
Last summer, while visiting New York City, five siblings—Ella, Luke, John, JP, and Christoph—went to a park and, noticing a brilliant red cardinal, fed him some of their fruit and nuts. The friendly bird wore a captain’s hat, so the kids dubbed him Captain Cardinal, or CC for short. Now it’s winter, and finding food short, CC leaves the city and searches for his friends over many days. Finally, he discovers five children playing outside in the snow. Recognizing their friend, the children rush inside in a frenzy: “We have to feed him!” Their mother agrees, and while gathering nuts, seeds, and fruit, reminds the children, “We are God’s hand on this earth to feed the hungry, not just the birds.” After the children fill the bird feeder, CC (and other animals) eats his fill, and all are happy. Femenella (The Rock: Foundation of All Life, 2016) links her story explicitly to biblical commands about helping the needy, although all can relate to the pleasures of giving. She conveys the children’s excitement well and—in a beautiful line—the bird’s gratitude: “CC looked at the children with thanksgiving in his eyes.” Dale’s illustrations are a real plus, lively and bright. The unexplained captain’s hat strikes an odd note; additionally, because cardinals flock together in winter, especially when food is scarce, CC’s solitary behavior is strange.
The joy of generosity comes across despite a few puzzlements.