Stead’s flora-filled settings and free-spirited style will feel happily familiar to readers of A Home for Bird (2012); the fresh storyline follows the range of reactions to an extroverted personality.
Ruby is a diminutive, yellow bird whose frequent introductions are a touch formal: “I am glad to meet you.” She fearlessly initiates conversation with much bigger birds and is the kind of friend who offers ideas and is willing to try the suggestions of others. In the process, much is gleaned about avian (and human) behavior. In a nod to Leo Lionni, a red warbler her size shows Ruby how not to feel small: The flock flies in an elephant formation, their collective shape larger than any pachyderm in the herd. Stead places the protagonist in a variety of situations, at one point allowing listeners to finish a sentence, at another permitting silence to heighten emotion, as when Ruby stands alone in a gray rainstorm, rebuffed. Wide, energetic crayon strokes color her expansive world in shades transitioning from sky blue to sunset coral. Thin circular lines suggest ponds and trees. Rendered in gouache, the expressive animals are the focus, whether on glaciers or in grasslands.
A final encounter helps the heroine and readers comprehend and value the concepts of name and identity—and the blessings that reaching out to a diverse community bestows. (Picture book. 3-6)