Written By: Zetta Elliot 

Illustrated By: Shandra Strickland 

Before Reading

Explore Illustrations and Text:

Take a moment before reading the story to look over the cover and illustrations with your child. Ask questions that will promote imaginative thinking such as:

What do you notice on the front cover?

What do you predict will happen in this story?

Where do you think the boy got his nickname, “Bird”?

Why do you think Bird enjoys drawing?

This story touches upon some very sensitive topics such as death and drug abuse so prepare your child by saying, “This story has some sad parts but it has some important lessons to teach us, ok?”

As You Read

It is important to bring your child’s attention to the illustrations on each page, as these beautiful pictures supplement the text by telling more about Bird’s life, imagination, and surroundings. For example, when Bird describes how Marcus would go up to the roof when he was upset, ask your child, “What do you notice in this picture? What do you think Marcus is doing on the roof?”

Making Connections:

Stories can act as mirrors, reflecting your child’s experiences back to them and giving him/her something to relate to, so ask questions that make these connections apparent. For example, when Bird is sad about not being able to fix Marcus and begins drawing, ask your child, “Bird turns to drawing to express himself and make himself feel better. When you are feeling upset or sad, what do you like to do to feel better? How does that help?”  

After Reading

Summarize and Interpret:

Ask these questions to gauge your child’s comprehension of the story:

How did Bird first get interested in drawing? Why did he continue to draw?

What did Uncle Son and Bird like to do together? Why did Bird like to hang out with him?

Why did Marcus tell Bird to stay in school, even though he had dropped out of school himself?

Why did Bird’s family tell him not to let Marcus in after their house had been robbed? What happened to Marcus?

How did the story make you feel? Why?

The death of Bird’s brother, Marcus, due to drug abuse is a major event in the story. Discuss the topic of loss with your child by saying, “Marcus got very sick because he took drugs and he got so sick that he died.How do you think Bird felt when Marcus died? Do you think Bird misses Marcus? How can you tell that from the story? Did you know someone that died? How did you feel? It’s ok to feel sad sometimes and miss that person.” Allow your child to voice any concerns or questions on the topic and try to answer as honestly as possible. For information on how to discuss the topic of death with your child, you can refer to this article from the National Institutes of Health.

Activity: Drawing

Supplies: Paper and whatever your child wants to draw with (a pencil, markers, crayons, etc)

Bird uses drawing as a means of expression and as a way of coping with the tough things happening in his life. Let your child grab a piece of paper and draw a depiction of an event that has occurred in his/her life. It can be a happy or sad event, as long as the image captures your child’s feelings about the event. Then ask your child why s/he chose to draw that event and how s/he felt about it.