May 10, 2015

Giraffe Meets Bird

Written and illustrated by Rebecca Bender
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 2-5
May, 2015

Rebecca Bender’s award-winning duo, Giraffe and Bird, from Giraffe and Bird (Dancing Cat Books, 2010) and Don’t Laugh at Giraffe (Pajama Press, 2012), have returned in Giraffe Meets Bird and young readers will finally learn how the two unlikely but perennial friends came to be.

When little Bird emerges from his shell in the very tree which Giraffe has enjoyed, the two begin the dance of friendship, a fascinating play of learning more about each other’s personality quirks.

Then, not unlike many a friendship, a conflict creates a turning point. Scratching himself against the tree, Giraffe accidentally pitches little Bird into the grass, not far from a reclining lion! Giraffe springs into action, saving Bird and ensconcing them safely back in the tree (I know!) to wait out the departure of their potential predator. But then what?

As a teacher I might be tempted to use the text of Giraffe Meets Bird to demonstrate the richness of synonyms (e.g., fascinated/tickled, surprised/amazed, cross/angry) as the pair of creatures respond similarly but differently to their circumstances. Or I might focus on the value of sharing and thinking of others. But as a reader and lover of children’s illustration, I prefer to revel in a charming story about an unlikely friendship. Rebecca Bender’s story is sweet and hopeful and enchanting. But it’s her artwork that would charm birds out of the trees. (Oh wait, it already has!) Bird is a bundle of lime fluff, with a singing stance worthy of any Idol wannabe, whereas Giraffe has the wide-eyed wonder–and gorgeous lashes!–of a lanky and clumsy juvenile. They are young and naïve and innocent and generous of heart. And the rich turquoise sky and the flirty acacia tree (I used the book's endpapers of acacia branches as a frame for the book cover above) will transport young readers to a very real savannah, even one with a lion and elephant or two.

Rebecca Bender could have taken Giraffe and Bird on another adventure with a life lesson about friendship, but I am so glad that first she made sure that Giraffe Meets Bird and had the two became the extraordinary friends they are today.

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