This low-key slice of life, apparently adapted from the author’s grandmother’s experiences as an immigrant child, offers a glimpse of another time and reminds young listeners that friends, whether feathered or human, are among life’s sweetest gifts.
Nora, her baby brother, Milo, and her parents have come to the United States from Russia. The prairie landscape is bleak and unfamiliar, Milo is still too small to speak, and Nora is lonely. A neighbor, not near but closer than anyone else, has potential as a friend, but like Nora, is too shy to connect. Nora welcomes a stray dog who joins their little family, but Willie bonds with Milo, so she is still alone. Then her father brings home some poultry, intending the birds for their table, and Nora finds “something all [her] own” at last. That her feathered friends lead her to a new companion will please young listeners, who’ll appreciate the happy ending (which is really a new beginning). MacLachlan’s relatively lengthy, leisurely, straightforward text is realistic without bogging down in details as the action moves along. Brown’s watercolor illustrations are the perfect complement, bringing characters to life, mirroring the plot, portraying the rural setting clearly (if a bit ideally) and evoking a simpler time.
Like her novels, MacLachlan’s latest picture book is a heartwarming—but never saccharine—tale with an old-fashioned feel. (Picture book. 5-8)