by Sean Cassidy
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
They grow up so young, don't they? One minute they're little white eggs, and next they're looking out the hole of the nest, sure that getting food is as easy as mom and dad make it look.
"I've watched you, Mama. Find an old tree. Hammer the wood. Eat the yummy bugs. I can do it." (pg. 9)
As much as Mama frets about Pierce setting out on his own feeding, he is convinced that it will be easy. However, several encounters with animals who don't appreciate his selection of trees leave Pierce hungry and trembling. It's only when he uses his head–rather large, in fact–that the young woodpecker is able to fill his tummy and return home to rest.
A Woodpecker's Tale is all about the young taking initiative and becoming independent of their parents (a lesson some human parents might well heed). And even though Pierce makes some potentially hazardous mistakes along the way, Mama who seems to be watching from afar does not step in and take control. She's wise enough to trust that what he has learned from her modelling will be sufficient to prepare him for whatever obstacles he might encounter.
The Tell-Me-More! Storybook series of which A Woodpecker's Tale is Sean Cassidy's second (his first, Kazaak!, was reviewed here) always enriches the sweet story with information about the animal featured. Included at the back of the book is information about key features of woodpeckers (did you know their tongues are barbed?), the different kinds, how they care for their young, how they locate bugs, and even how to draw adorable Pierce. There's even some info about the Virginia opossum, one of the animals that Pierce encounters.
Several years ago I had the privilege of visiting Sean Cassidy (posted on July 17, 2012) at his home and studio to witness the creative stages that go into producing a children's picture book. It's evident from A Woodpecker's Tale that the diligence with which Sean creates his charming characters and illustrates the natural settings (reflective of the beauty of his surroundings) ensures that this story will not falter over time, entertaining our youngest readers whether they favour fiction or non-fiction.