Leaving the Nest
Written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein
Farrar, Straus and Giroux; $16.00
40 pp.; ISBN-13: 978-0374343699
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
Just when you think you're ready to tear your hair out working through another mark of independence with your child, take heart -- you're not alone. Mother birds feel pretty much the same way. But the squirrels have no sympathy whatsoever (but if the squirrels in your neighborhood are anything like the ones in mine, you knew that already).
How do I know this? Veteran children's book writer and illustrator Mordicai Gerstein's new book, Leaving the Nest, presents a warm and funny look at the universality of taking those first tentative steps toward independence, with an approach that's easily accessible to young readers.
A practicing baby bird's flapping wings work him out of the nest while a young girl decides to make an attempt to ride her two-wheel bicycle. Meanwhile, the girl's kitten, warned to stay indoors, makes a break for the great outdoors, while a baby squirrel watches all the action from a safe nest in a tree.
When the baby blue jay begins to fall, right into the kitten's clutches, naturally, the mother bird swoops in to defend her child. The little girl, fallen off of her bicycle, shoos away the kitten and gets help from her mother with a ladder in order to put the bird back in the nest. As she tries to set things right, the squirrel taunts the kitten, having some innocent fun with her until all of the youngsters grow hungry and a chorus of "Let's eat!" rings out across the yard.
Mordicai Gerstein's book is especially appealing to young readers in that he takes on the perspective of each of his characters, playing up the similarities among them and also with the young readers who enjoy the book. The story isn't told through a traditional narrative style; it's all dialogue as he relies on speech bubbles for each character, allowing for some level of flexibility in the telling. Each character's personality is strong and clear, as evidenced by his or her speech, and absolutely convincing -- exactly what you'd think a kitten or a bird (or even your child herself) might say in that situation. For example, the blue jay screams for help: "I'm stuck in the giant's great paw!" as the girl rescues him, while the squirrel, when asked what she is by the kitten, answers playfully, "I'm a dog," and, "Catch me if you can!"
As the story moves into the girl's rescue of the blue jay, the visual perspective shifts from landscape-oriented art to portrait-oriented art, forcing you to turn the book sideways to continue the story, and then back again once the bird is returned to the nest, only to have to flip the book again, and then back. I can see the rationale behind doing it, but it's disruptive to the flow of the story and to the readers as well.
The struggle between desire and fear in taking those first steps will be recognized by young readers, and to see it exhibited by familiar animals like a kitten and a blue jay is reassuring, emphasizing the universality of the experience in terms kids can understand.
Exploring the themes of independence and compassion with warmth and great humor, Mordicai Gerstein's Leaving the Nest even includes the best part-- no matter how far you get from the nest, at the end of the day (or book…) you can always go home again.
The IP Bookshelf
The IP Bookshelf
Work! Work! Work!
The IP Bookshelf
All original content © 2002 - 2013 Imperfect Parent®. Imperfect Parent and Mominatrix are registered trademarks.
The views, opinions and information expressed in articles and blog posts published on imperfectparent.com and all subdomains are those of the authors alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Imperfect Parent or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of any entity of, or affiliated with, Imperfect Parent. The Imperfect Parent is designed for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for medical, health, legal, or financial advice from a professional.
Reproduction of material from any of Imperfect Parent's pages without written permission is strictly prohibited.