Written and Illustrated by: Bob Staake
Sit Back and Have Fun with Wordless Books
Books without words can be overwhelming at first. Deconstructing the book is one way to harness all of the visual images coming your way. Whether you preview the book or open it for the first time with your child, keep the basics of a storyline in mind.
- Take in the setting and changes in setting. Each new setting can be considered a new chapter in the story. At the beginning of Bluebird, you’ll find the boy and bird outside, in the city, on the way to school. The next two pages are a new setting, in the classroom. While the story continues through one day, the settings change, moving the story along. Bluebird divides pictures on the page with a thick frame, helping your eye follow left to right or top to bottom.
- Follow the action. The action in a wordless picture book is moving our eyes toward the high point, or climax, of the story. Expect the intensity of the illustration and mood to build naturally as you move through the book. You can see the action moving toward a climax in Bluebird as the boy and bluebird leave the park. The growing intensity can be seen in darker pictures and in the characters’ facial features.
- Focus on the resolution. Wordless picture books resolve conflict in creative ways. Look for the way the illustrator changes the mood from intense sorrow to hope. One way this is accomplished in Bluebird is that while the boy is grieving the hurt bluebird, the background color lightens and a red bird is introduced in the last frame of the page. This helps shift the mood and usher in a resolution that leaves us feeling hopeful.
Most importantly, enjoy the journey!
If you have not encountered a wordless picture book before, ask your child:
- What do you notice about the pages?
- Where are all of the words?
- If there are no words, how do you think we should "read" this book?
If wordless books are favorites in your home, ask your child:
- What is your favorite wordless picture book?
- What did we learn from that picture book?
- How did we explore it?
- Should we explore this wordless picture book the same way?
Next, examine the cover together and ask your child:
- What questions do you have when you look at this cover?
- What do you see on the cover? (Point out colors and shapes with a younger child and ask an older child what (s)he recognizes.)
- What do you like about the cover?
- What do you think this story is about?
As You Read
On your first reading: Ask your child:
- What do you see in the picture?
- Who is this character in the picture? How old do you suppose he is? What is he like?
- (As the boy moves through his morning, continue asking questions about what you observe in each frame.) What is happening? Why do you think that is happening?
- How does the character feel about what is happening at school? How would you feel?
- What would you do if you met a bird on the sidewalk? Do you think that is what the character will do?
- What do you think will happen next?
- How do you think this story will end? How do you want it to end?
On your second reading: Look for the problems the main characters face and ask your child:
- What is happening in this classroom? Is this a happy day or a sad day for the boy? How do you know? Look at the faces and gestures of characters for clues about how the characters feel.
- How does the boy feel? Have you ever felt this way?
- How would you feel if you were in this classroom? What would you do about it? Who would you talk to?
- If you were in the classroom, how could you be a friend to the boy?
- What happens when the boy and the bird go through the park after school? What problem do they encounter? Why is it a problem?
- What choices do the boy and the bird have?
- What would you tell the boy or the bird about this problem?
- Why do the other birds come to help?
On later readings: Begin narrating Bluebird. You and your child can narrate the bird’s story or the boy’s story. Include the setting, action, and dialogue in your narration.The first page of Bluebird includes the dedication to John James Audubon and presents setting.
To help get you started on a narration where the bird knows the boy, say:
- Page 1: “'Good morning, New York!' sings the bluebird as he swoops through the city, greeting his favorite buildings."
- Page 2: "'Good morning, bluebird!' he sings to his reflection in a window. 'Time for school,' he chirps as he flies over his boy and lands in a tree, ready to learn today."
- Page 3: “'Good morning, little boy,' calls the bird. 'Cheer up! Cheerup! Chirp!' he chirps to his boy."
- From here, walk the boy and bird through their morning at school. Next time you read, start another way and enjoy a different direction of narration.
As you go through each reading, try to use different words to describe each scene. For example, when the boy is eating his cookie, say, "Look, when he turns back around, the bird is eating the crumbs off of the ground. That was UNEXPECTED because he thought he had lost the bird." You can also build vocabulary by introducing more instructional words like SUMMARIZE by saying, "How would you SUMMARIZE (give the main points for) what is happening on this page?"
Summarize and Interpret
Ask your child:
Does this book remind you of a time you were in a new place? How did you feel? (Share experiences when you were in a new place and how you felt. Maybe a new school or a new job.)
Does this story remind you of a time when you needed a friend? Who was a friend to you and how did (s)he help?
What was the most important thing we learned from this book? (You can ask your child to help you list all of the different things you have learned. Then, ask a bit more about each of those things.) What did we learn about friendship? What did we learn about helping each other? What did we learn about peace-making?
If you could be one character in this story which character would you like to be? Why?
How did the characters change during this story? How did we change because of this story? What can we do to be a friend, a peacemaker, or to help someone else?
When you feel it is appropriate, use Bluebird to talk with your child about bullying:
- Ask your child if (s)he has ever felt uncomfortable with someone’s behavior toward him/her. How did that make him/her feel?
- Help make a plan in case (s)he does feel bullied . Help choose a few safe people to talk to when (s)he feels bullied and you are not around.
- Ask how (s)he can tell you or a safe person how (s)he is feeling when someone else is bullying or being unkind to your child.
- Explore other Zoobean books about bullying.
- If it is too soon to talk about bullying, try exploring Zoobean books about friendship, like those in our catalog here.
Activity: Bird Watching
Supplies: pencils, paper, and your senses
We learned so much from observing what was included in each picture. Bluebird is dedicated to John James Audubon, who learned about birds by watching them. Go outside with your child, some pencils, and a sketch pad to record your observations about the birds in your yard, neighborhood, or neighborhood park. What birds did you see? What were they doing? What did they look like? Help your child sketch what (s)he sees and record any observations to remember. Research some images of Audubon’s birds to explore to with your child. Did he draw any of the same birds you drew or saw?
When you get home, you can check out Birdsource.org, a website that can tell you what types of birds live in your area during this time of year. See if you can find any of the birds you saw on your bird watching expedition, and learn more about them like in what other regions they exist, what their call sounds like (if you didn't hear it), their behaviors, and habitats.
Check This Out
If your child is interested in doing more bird-themed activities, help him/her make some origami birds using Origamiway.com. Try making the Origami Pelican first, as it has the easiest level of difficulty, and if your child is up for the challenge, move on to more difficult birds.