My kids and I can often be seen walking around our yard area trying to pinpoint a songbird up in the trees. There are some calls that are easy for all of us to identify- the American robin’s cheery trill, the blue jay’s jarring calls, and the chickadee’s confident repeating of its own name. Of course, another one most folks can immediately recognize is that of the American crow, though their raucous caws don’t usually convey the same warm feelings as the songbirds. Perhaps after reading Marit Menzin’s picture book Song for Papa Crow, however, children (and parents) may come to have a new appreciation the next time they hear a crow’s caws.
In colorful cut-paper illustrations that convey texture even on the two-dimensional page, the story introduces Little Crow, a young bird frustrated with his own voice. Though he loves to sing, his calls drive away the other songbirds, with whom he’d love to sing. When he’s offered a special, magical seed that allows him to mimic the beautiful melodies of the goldfinch, the cardinal, and the Phoebe Flycatchers, he doesn’t foresee the troubles that come with it. Without his own particular call, how will Papa Crow know where to find him in a time of danger?
I most appreciate the blending of an engaging narrative and story line with interesting facts about various birds that are accessible to even the very youngest readers. (As toddlers, my kids loved sitting on an outdoor bench and watching the bird feeder!) Menzin also provides additional notes at the end of the book with tidbits about each of the types of birds present in the story. I have to admit that I even learned a thing or two!
With summer in full swing, this book makes for a perfect read out on your lawn or in a neighborhood park, with ears at the ready to pick up on any bird calls. I routinely recommend nature-themed picture books, and this one helps children make a connection to the natural world around them with an entertaining story pulling it all together.