My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo
Genre: Picture Book
Publisher: Pajama Press
Publication Date: March 1, 2017 (CAN) / March 8, 2017 (US)
Review Source: Review copy
My Beautiful Birds is both sad and touching, compelling and infuriating, heart-wrenching and hopeful. It is the story of a young, Syrian boy named Sami. He and his family flee their war-torn home in search of a place of refuge and Sami experiences a great deal of distress. However, Sami’s distress is not directly associated with fear for his own life, or sadness of leaving his home—he suffers not knowing if his pet birds, who got left behind, are OK. Sami and his family find a refugee camp and are lucky enough to find shelter, build a garden, have neighbours to socialize and play with; but Sami’s distress impedes his daily life. One day, three birds settle in the refugee camp and Sami finds comfort in these new friends and his healing process begins.
I highly, highly recommend this book. The whole idea for the story began when Suzanne Del Rizzo herself set out to research the Syrian refugee crisis so she could explain and discuss the news with her own children. There is no political overtone or explanation in this book, but the setting and the illustrations nod toward the realities Syrian people are subjected to, making it appropriate for the youngest of readers, but also relevant and engaging for an older audience.
This is a debut in storytelling for Del Rizzo, as well as delving into a new medium (polymer clay) for her illustrations. The development in her artistic skill is amazing: the detail in the feathers and wings of the birds is something I could just stare at while petting the page because I expect it to feel as soft as the feathers look.
This book belongs in every library and classroom (grades 1-6 especially) and on the family bookshelf, too. I cherish my advance copy and I can’t wait to share it with friends and family. I’m so proud to see books like this being published.