A Home for Bird
Philip C. Stead
Roaring Brook Press, $17, 32 pages, ages 3 and up
Last year author Philip C. Stead stole our hearts with his compassionate story in "A Sick Day for Amos McGee." It won the 2011 Caldecott Medal for illustration, which was by Stead's wife, Erin E. Stead. Now he's back with an endearing story about caring and home. This time he did his own illustrations.
It begins when Vernon, a mustard-colored toad, is out scavenging and comes across a blue bird with a large orange beak. Concerned that Bird is lost, Vernon tries to make conversation. Bird says nothing.
That makes Vernon determined to help Bird. He introduces him to neighbors Porcupine and Skunk, who commiserate with Vernon over his dilemma. Vernon takes Bird all around the neighborhood and across the river. He puts Bird in many possible homes, including a birdhouse and a mailbox. Nothing works.
At the end of an exhausting day, the pair take shelter in a farmhouse living room. Up high on the wall, Vernon notices an open door on what looks like a birdhouse in need of repair. Vernon fixes the hinges on the little upstairs door and puts Bird to bed. Both sleep to the gentle sound of tick-tock, tick-tock. In the morning Vernon wonders whether Bird liked the little house. Then suddenly Bird's door opens and he pops out on a little platform chirping "Cuckoo!"
Stead's colorful, sketchy drawings match his warm-hearted tale about caring. Sharp-eyed youngsters who go back over the illustrations will spot a big hint about how Bird got lost in the first place.
Barnum's Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World
Farrar Straus Giroux, $18, 40 pages, ages 5 and up
Author Tracey Fern turns her partial biography of Barnum Brown into an exciting adventure about finding the world's first Tyrannosaurus rex. Her lively writing captures a boy's passion for fossils and his determination to find them.
Artist Boris Kulikov's detail-rich illustrations portray Brown's life, his fossil finds and eccentric dress. Kulikov further engages youngsters with his generous flashes of humor, such as an iguana reading newspaper reports about dinosaurs and horses looking surprised when the T. rex skull starts emerging. His fanciful finale puts Brown atop a T. rex cavorting through New York's Central Park with the Museum of Natural History in the background.
The museum played a huge role in Brown's expeditions. When he started in 1897, the museum had no dinosaur bones. By the time he finished exploring sites from Montana and Canada to Patagonia, the museum had the largest collection in the world.
Fern concludes her thrilling account of Brown's incredible finds with a short bibliography and a website that includes Brown's field notes and photographs from his 1902 expedition to Montana.