Fuse 8 n’ Kate: The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Remy Charlip AND Christian Robinson
Kate sez: I want to do a spring book.
I sez: Here’s a dead bird!
Since I just love the Tom Lehrer song “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” so much (which begins, if you’ll recall, with the words, “Spring is here”) I just naturally thought of today’s book. Created both in 1958 and in 2016, I was so lucky to find BOTH editions in my library system. We’re continuing our funeral home theme started by such titles as Duck, Death and the Tulip. It’s our third Margaret Wise Brown book (after Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny), our second Remy Charlip (after Fortunately), and our very first Christian Robinson on this podcast. Notable for the moment Kate asks, “She’s dead, right?” to which I reply, “Oh, she’s SO DEAD!” Also notable for the line, “Have you considered that the bird might smell really really good?”
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There’s not a lot of information to be gleaned from Christian Robinson’s version of this tale, but I was able to track down this interview he conducted with Secret Society of Books and it does offer a window into his thought process on this project.
In the original version of this story the bird is large, front and center, and very dead. In the subsequent telling, the bird is tiny and almost hidden. On the other hand, the kids in the original are universally white white white, and in this newer version they show a better swath of racial diversity.
Anybody wanna huff a dead bird?
We kind of like how in the new book the red-haired kid keeps far far back from the bulk of the action.
Note how the bird is placed on a leaf in both cases. This is not a detail mentioned in the text.
Interesting the different expressions on the kids in the old vs. new version.
Both illustrators did choose to put flying birds over the sequence where the kids sing a song during the funeral.
I like the vibe here. “How long do we stand here? Do we go? How long do we grieve here?”
Interested in other books with dead animals? Two that I would highly recommend include The End of Something Wonderful by Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic, ill. George Ermos:
As well as All the Dear Little Animals by Ulf Nilsson, ill. Eva Eriksson:
It was making the rounds for a while but here’s the link to the story about wrestler Maurice Tillet, the man who inspired Shrek.
Filed under: Fuse 8 n' Kate
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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