Thursday, April 17, 2008

My Dad's a Birdman

Author: Almond, David
Illustrator: Dunbar, Polly
Publisher and Date: Candlewick Press, 2007
Genre: Illustrated Novel
Age Range: 3rd-5th

Summary: This lighthearted story is about a Father named Jackie and his daughter, Lizzie who live together. Lizzie's mam is no longer living. One day Jackie joins the Great Human Bird Competition that Mr. Poop is announcing and makes his own bird wings in order to participate. He even goes so far as to eat bugs! Lizzie stays home from school and ends up signing up for the competition as well. Auntie Doreen visits and thinks all of it is crazy and even brings Mr. Mint by to try and straighten the two of them out. Mr. Mint joins the competition as well, despite the flying dumplings thanks to Auntie Doreen. At the competition everyone who participates falls right into the water instead of flying but they all have a wonderful time and dance together at the end.

Response: My favorite part of the book were the illustrations. They were done in pencil, watercolor and collage. One of my favorites is a two page spread on pages 82 and 83 where Jackie and Lizzie were dancing in their living room with the bird wings on as the moonlight shone into the room. Their outline is in pencil and they are colored in with watercolor. The wings are the collage and I absolutely love them and love how the whole picture comes together. Another one of my favorites is the two page spread on pages 58 and 59 where Jackie and Lizzie have made a 'nest' and are sitting in it holding an imaginary egg between the two of them. Again i like their wings, but also in the nest is a piece of newspaper! The nest is a whole assorment of items and little paper clippings, but I really like the piece of small newspaper that is included.

As far as the actual story line, I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I might be able to appreciate it more if I read some more of Almond's work, but I just was not impressed. I did not like at the beginning where it seemed like Lizzie was taking care of her (what seemed to be) deranged father while he ate bugs and worms, refusing real food.

I think this is a great novel to get children reading as a transition to larger chapter books and novels. I really liked how the chapter 'titles' were the first few words of the beginning sentences of each chapter. This lets you get right into the reading and allows it to flow better instead of having each chapter be its own separate story.

Teaching Ideas: This book could be incorporated into a science lesson on birds and what allows them to fly. Students could also discuss why people can't fly (except for on an airplane or helicopter!). In learning about birds, the purpose of a nest could be discussed and students could take a short trip outside to gather materials they think would make a good nest. When back inside, students could create their own birds nest and make an egg out of play-doh or clay to put inside it.
For language arts and art, students could draw a picture of an outfit they would create to make them fly. After drawing the picture, they could write a story about how they made it and what it would do to help them fly.

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