In Marchitelli’s chapter book, a pair of young birds learns that the secret to life rests in finding a partner with whom to ride out the joyful tail winds and difficult head winds of life.
The “Valley of the Birds” is safeguarded by mountains and a coterie of gentle birds who command the sky, “peacefully sharing the joy of life.” When the day comes for young Hebril to jump from the rocky cliff and attempt his first flight, his parents encourage him, fully aware that their purpose in life is to help him become an adult bird. But Hebril backs away, not yet prepared to fail. His parents respect his fear and later debate whether or not to share a family secret with him. “Not at this time,” says the father; Hebril must first “go through the path of becoming a great bird.” The young bird eventually takes flight, which leads him to meet the mysterious Wise Bird, who holds not just the key to the family secret, but to a much larger spiritual enigma—which Hebril encounters when he catches the eye of the beautiful Kerah. As the two fly high and strengthen their wings together, they prove their worthiness. At the urging of their fellow Valley inhabitants, the couple flies off beyond the mountains, where no bird has ever gone. In six easy-to-read chapters, Marchitelli’s birds provide lessons in courage, self-belief, trust, purpose and love. Deep ideas contained in simple language not only enrich the adventure, they make the book accessible to spiritually inclined families looking for a positive, wholesome way to discuss the somewhat muddy waters of adolescent love with younger readers, who in turn, may feel freer to ask honest questions about sexuality and what life has in store for them. Ellanson’s lovely illustrations add charm and a much-needed dimension to the book. Without them, readers may have trouble forming a mental picture from the narrator’s vague, generic descriptions of his feathered cast.
A tender, thought-provoking journey that teaches that “life is not the origin of love”; it’s the other way around.