The Paper Bird

Dial. Dec. 2021. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593110225.
Gr 2-4–Annie is a young Black girl who uses bright paints and crayons. All her classmates, mostly white, use faint watercolors. One day, Annie witnesses her drab classmates laughing, and assumes they are laughing at her. Dejected, Annie quits drawing, and the color literally drains from the world around her. Annie speaks to no one about her hurt feelings; adults are conspicuously absent from the illustrations. Alone after school, Annie resumes her artwork. She imagines her drawings coming to life. Discarded scraps grow into trees lined like notebook paper. A turquoise bird emerges from Annie’s paper and fills the monochrome gray sky with blue spirals. She returns to school the next day, happy and colorful. Copious text reiterates what is shown in the colorful illustrations, but does not provide any additional context. For instance, at the end Annie is shown interacting happily with the classmates who laughed at her the day before. It is not explained why Annie’s classmates happily welcome her back the next day, given that, from their perspective, nothing has changed and they were never aware that they hurt her feelings.
VERDICT To have a child suffer harm to her self-identity and process it alone, a coping method with potentially toxic long-term effects in reality, isn’t a message to pass on.

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