A true event inspired this story which begins more realistically than it ends. Israel hosts the highest number of migrating birds in the world; one of these is caught in a net protectively covering the kibbutz fish pond. A little girl, Maya, and her father save the bird, a stork, whose broken wing cannot be repaired. They cannot return the stork to the wild, but they create a life for it in a ground nest. In another migration, a male stork sees the female on the ground; he waits for her to join him in the tree, but the bird cannot fly; she does not come. True to its biological imperative, the male will not live on the ground. Shortly, he finds another female, builds a nest, and creates a family. Just as these babies are ready to fly, their mother disappears. Maya’s father arranges for a famer and his bucket loader to lift the injured stork up to the nest to raise the babies. Maya rides up and places the bird in the nest.
Happy ending? A zoo ornithologist doubts a bird with one wing could manage in a tree. Kibbutz life is unexplained. The picture book arcs from man compensating for nature to man manipulating nature, the implausibility of the outcome detracting from a genuinely moving tale. The fantasy solution aims for a heartwarming vignette. It rings false and it detracts from the wonderful opening acts of caring. It denies that reality can sometimes be heartwarming, which would give us hope as well as warm fuzzies. The illustrations are soft; they deliver action and emotions nicely. A role-model ecological story for children morphs into a fairy tale without explanation. Movement from fact to fiction, although pleasant, disappoints. For ages 3 – 6.
Ellen G. Cole, a retired librarian of the Levine Library of Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, is a past judge of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards and a past chairperson of that committee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excellence in Jewish Children’s Literature. Ellen is the recipient of two major awards for contribution to Judaic Librarianship, the Fanny Goldstein Merit Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroeder Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California. She is on the board of AJLSC.