photo by Swami Stream www.flickr.com
*Picture book, contemporary urban fable, for preschoolers through first graders
*Young boy as main character
*Rating: How to Heal a Broken Wing’s beautiful illustrations tell this heartwarming story along with a few simple words.
Short, short summary: A little boy finds a bird with a broken wing in the middle of the city. He convinces his mom to let him take the bird home and fix its wing. With his parents’ help and a lot of time and patience, the bird heals. The family takes the bird back to the spot where they found it and let it fly away. Here’s what Bob Graham (author and illustrator) has to say about his book How to Heal a Broken Wing: “I wanted to show that there is still hope in a coming generation of children who have curiosity and empathy with the world around them, and that care and attention can sometimes fix broken wings.”
So, what do I do with this book?
1. Books like How to Heal a Broken Wing where illustrations tell a large part of the story are perfect for use in the classroom or with home school students. Your children or your students can provide the text for the illustrations that Bob Graham did not. You can work on dialogue and punctuating dialogue as a shared writing activity. What are the parents and the little boy saying to each other about the bird’s broken wing? Children can also write about what the boy or even the bird might be thinking in their reading response journals.
2. How to Heal a Broken Wing is considered an urban fable. So a good discussion to have with children about this book is, “What should you do if you find a wild animal hurt? Who should you call or tell?” It’s always a good idea to call your local humane society even if they can’t help because they will have numbers for who to call. Children should NOT touch these animals, and adults should always wear gloves. Use Bob Graham’s book to start a safety discussion.
3. What else can time and patience do? Although you will be reading this book to younger children, you can still talk to them about how this book has a message that time and patience can do remarkable things in our world–look at the Grand Canyon. Make a list with your students. If they are having trouble getting started, you could help them think about things that grow–such as time and patience to get a seed to grow into a seedling OR time and patience to teach a dog to sit and so on.
Have you read this book?
Author: Bob Graham (on JOMB)
Illustrator: Bob Graham
Published: 2008 Candlewick Press (on JOMB)
Airy illustrations and sparse poetic prose paint a poignant picture of hope, help and healing in this unspoken invitation to dare to care.
Other books mentioned:
Dreams of flying on JOMB:
Six weeks ago yesterday, in Woodstock, Ontario, eight year old Victoria Stafford finished her school day … then disappeared. As the days turned to weeks, Canadians coast to coast came to know Victoria and her family as we watched mother Tara McDonald’s daily efforts to keep the search for her daughter fresh in our minds. This despite mounting public criticism and suspicion of Tara herself.
Yesterday, we learned of Tori’s tragic fate … and of her mother’s innocence.
This episode of Just One More Book! is dedicated to little Tori Stafford, with heartfelt hopes for the healing of those she left behind.
The Charlotte Zolotow Award was announced and the 12th annual winner is...
How to Heal a Broken Wing
Author: Bob Graham,
Publisher: Candlewick Press (August 2008)
Reading Level: Ages 4-8
The award is given by the Cooperative Children's Book Center, a library of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for outstanding writing in a picture book published in the U.S. It is named to honor the work of Charlotte Zolotow, a distinguished children's book editor for 38 years with Harper Junior Books, and author of more than 70 picture books.
The 2009 Zolotow Award committee named five Honor Books:
How I Learned Geography written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz, edited by Margaret Ferguson, and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
How Mama Brought the Spring written by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Holly Berry, edited by Julie Strauss-Gebel and Donna Brooks, and published by Dutton
In a Blue Room written by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Tricia Tusa,
edited by Samantha McFerrin, and published by Harcourt/Houghton Mifflin
A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williamswritten by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, edited by Shannon White, and published by Eerdmans
Silent Music written and illustrated by James
Rumford, edited by Neal Porter, and published by Roaring Brook Press.
The 2009 Zolotow Award committee also cited eight titles as Highly
The Butter Manwritten by Elizabeth Alalou and Ali Alalou, illustrated by Julie Klear Essakalli (Charlesbridge)
The Chicken of the Family written by Mary Amato, illustrated by Delphine Durand (Putnam)
The Cow That Laid an Egg written by Andy Cutbill, illustrated by Russell Ayto (U. S. edition: HarperCollins)
Dance with Me: Super Sturdy Picture Book (Super Sturdy Picture Books) written by Charles R. Smith, Jr., illustrated by Noah Z. Jones (Candlewick);
Don't Worry Bear written and illustrated by Greg Foley (Viking)
Growing Up With Tamales / Los tamales de Ana (Spanish Edition) written by Gwendolyn Zepeda, illustrated by April Ward, Spanish translation by Gabriela Baeza Ventura (Piñata Books / Arte Público Press)
Hen Hears Gossip written by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Joung Un Kim (Greenwillow / HarperCollins)
Old Bear written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow / HarperCollins).
How to Heal a Broken Wing
by Bob Graham
Candlewick (Aug 2008)
ISBN-10: 0763639036, ISBN-13: 978-0763639037
Ages: 4-8 (and up)
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
High above the city, no one heard the s oft thud of feathers against glass.
No one saw the bird fall.
No one looked down…
-How to Heal a Broken Wing, Bob Graham, p. 1-8.
I love books that bring a sense of hope and bring good feeling.
How to Heal a Broken Wing does this beautifully.
A bird hits a building and falls to the ground, its wing breaking, and no one sees it or notices it–until a young boy does. He picks the bird up and takes it home, caring for it tenderly and patiently. Over time, the bird’s wing heals, and eventually when the boy sets the bird free, the bird flies away, well once more.How to Heal a Broken Wing reminds readers that kindness and empathy can make a difference, that taking action is important, and that sometimes it’s important to take the time and energy over something that others ignore. This is a book that promotes kindness and is full of hope.
Graham’s (, Max) story text is brief, without unnecessary detail, and has a good story voice. Graham’s text immediately evokes emotion, pulling at heart strings and engaging the reader with the opening text–that no one heard the soft thud of feathers against glass. It’s a powerful opening. Anyone who’s ever been hurt and ignored will be able to relate to it. Graham repeats “no one” twice (heard, saw, looked down) which increases the emotional power, and can bring a potential loneliness or sense of sadness–until the next sentence, when a boy sees and rescues the bird. The reader is given instant relief and lightness, and it works beautifully.
The story text moves from the specific (the boy, Will, seeing the bird with the broken wing), to the more general, the general text reading as a metaphor as well as being specific to the story: “A loose feather can’t be put back…but a broken wing can sometimes heal.” This can easily be taken to mean that a wounded spirit–or a wounded nation–can heal. It’s a powerful message, and an important one. Graham includes wise advice that readers can take for themselves–that to heal, the bird (or the reader) needs rest, time, and a little hope to heal. And the metaphor of flying once again after having been broken is also incredibly powerful. These metaphors and wisdom will, I think, give the book a wide readership, speaking to what each reader needs.
Graham’s illustrations and text work together beautifully, seamlessly, the illustrations showing us things the text doesn’t, sometimes complementing the text, sometimes standing in for the text.
Will, the boy in the illustrations, stands out sharply from the gloomy grey of everything and everyone else with his bright red jacket and blue pants, and his not being in a grey wash like everything else, or in dull drab colors that the other people wear. This brings visual attention and interest to the boy. And when the boy leans down to help the bird, a soft yellow light surrounds him and the bird, bringing even greater visual focus, and bringing a sense of goodness, of rightness, of bringing the first bright light in the gloom through his actions, lighting up the day. This is symbolic, and works well on many levels. The color brightens, the grey wash leaving, after the boy brings the bird home–working, again, on an emotional as well as visual level.
Graham’s pen, watercolor, and chalk illustrations are strong and evocative. They have an almost comic-book feel, with sometimes multiple panes of illustrations per page or spread showing a sequence of events, and dots for characters’ eyes. The illustrations vary in size and number on the spreads, keeping visual interest, and there is always a lot to look at.
The illustrations show us events and scenes that aren’t in the text, and that greatly add to the story, such as that Will’s parents are initially flustered by him bringing the bird home, but ultimately encouraging and accepting. And they show the boy’s and his parents’ tenderness and gentle care–how carefully the bird is wrapped to prevent further injury and carried; how the bird is fed water through an eye dropper; how they lay newspaper in a box with holes for the bird; and how, when the bird starts to get better, they try to encourage it to fly, and show it other birds through the window. Readers will enjoy poring over the illustrations, seeing everything that happens that isn’t in the text, and looking at all the details in the illustrations.
Graham uses light and dark to underscore mood and emotional tone. Light on the boy’s and parents’ faces and the bird bring a sense of hope. Graham also visually shows us the movement of time with the moon’s cycles. This worked very well for me, though some children might need an explanation.
How to Heal a Broken Wing is an uplifting, feel good book, one you’ll want to share with many people. Give this book to anyone who needs a sense of hope, of lightness, or to know that things will work out. Highly recommended!
How to Heal a Broken Wing won the Cybils awards in the fiction picture book category, and rightly so.
Want more books?
Go to Inner Strength: Strong Girls–and Boys, too to find another great picture book.
Or, go to the Picture Book reviews main menu to see all the categories of books.