May 11, 2017

A Cage Went in Search of a Bird

Written by Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Banafsheh Erfanian
Groundwood Books
978-1-55498-861-7
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
May 2017

Based on Franz Kafka’s aphorism identical to the title, Cary Fagan tells the story of a long-forgotten bird cage in an attic, hopeful of a bird to reside in it once again.  So determined is the cage for a bird that it throws itself out the window of the attic and rolls out into the big world outside in search of a new bird.

Though the cage is visited by many a bird–crow, blue jay, hummingbird, sun conure, hoopoe, owl–they all profess valid reasons for why they will not venture inside.  After all, they are wild birds, used to the freedom to fly where they will for food or perch, one with young in a tree nest, one far too big to spread its wings within.  It’s not until the cage is visited by a canary that its quest comes to an end.
Illustration by Banafsheh Erfanian 
for A Cage Went in Search of a Bird
A Cage Went in Search of a Bird has the feel of one of Aesop’s fables in that birds and objects such as the birdcage, a suitcase and a guitar speak.  Whether Cary Fagan intended to teach a lesson as fables do only he can tell us but there are important messages within regardless.  Though A Cage Went in Search of a Bird has at its basis the premise that there is someone for everyone, it also speaks to freedom and wild animals versus pets and perspective.  It is evident that no matter how lovely Banafsheh Erfanian’s acrylic and pastel illustrations are of the ornate bird cage, it’s not enough to get any bird to jump inside.  And her artwork is outstanding, as daring in her colours and shapes as the cage is in its search.  Reds, oranges and turquoises give A Cage Went in Search of a Bird an exotic feel, though the collection of bird species suggests a global tale by including temperate birds of North America, a South American parrot and the Afro-Eurasian hoopoe.  The lavishness of Banafsheh Erfanian’s illustrations embodies the importance of Cary Fagan's words.  Though it might not follow the paradoxical meaning of Kafka's aphorism, A Cage Went in Search of a Bird's message that even that which is most beautiful can be lonely and that quests to alleviate that loneliness can be daunting but worthwhile is just as relevant.
Illustration by Banafsheh Erfanian 
for A Cage Went in Search of a Bird

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