Vernon is both a toad and a forager for found objects. Ambling along with his latest haul, he chances upon a creature he seeks to know and then to help.
Observant children will have noticed (next to the copyright information) the overloaded “Careful Moving Co.” pickup truck barreling down the road, where a bump releases a cuckoo from its clock spring. On re-readings, additional story elements will be discovered in the truck. Vernon observes that “Bird is shy…but also a very good listener,” when he introduces Bird to his friends. He and his pals conclude that Bird is lost and unhappy, so the thoughtful, resourceful amphibian readies a teacup boat for the journey to help this quiet stranger return home. They check out a birdcage, birdhouse, mailbox, nest and telephone wires—to no avail, but “Vernon was a determined friend.” After the weary pair seeks refuge inside a familiar farmhouse clock, Vernon wakes to a cheery “Cuckoo!” and all is well. Stead’s loose gouache strokes and crayon scribbles create a disheveled world just right for suggesting a junk-collector’s paradise. Wide lines mix with thin curves, and wet and dry strokes commingle for a dappled, breezy setting; blue and green canopies often frame the page borders. Stead’s sensitive telling and white background create space for contemplation.
A deeply satisfying story that speaks to the universal desires to be nurtured and to find a home. (Picture book. 3-8)