The Dead Bird

A bird is meant to defy gravity, right?

So finding a dead female varied thrush outside the door is just a heartstoppingly sad experience. I have stickers all over the glass windowpanes to stop birds from crashing into them. Did this bird miss my UV stickers? Was she a window casualty? Such a terrible thought.

She was beautiful, regardless, claws delicately curled, eyes closed, a few drops of rain on her speckled breast. A perfect life form.

And because there is a picture book for every event the universe can possibly render up, my dead bird reminded me right away of The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown. There’s a newer edition of the book, but the one that lives in my mind is the one with the bright green cover, published after Brown’s own death with illustrations by Remy Charlip.

The child sensibility is so strong and so wonderfully eccentric in this book, as when the children sing to the bird. Snippet:

We sing to you
because you’re dead
Feather bird
And we buried you
In the ground
with ferns and flowers

The children put flowers and ferns into the little bird’s grave and they cry, because the bird is so beautiful and because, of course, it is dead.

No question. Picture books are the best life manual one can possibly find.

Where Exactly is the Great Green Room?

goodnightmoonGoodnight Moon, in print more or less continuously since 1947, was a staple, not of my childhood but of my childrearing years. The child in question simply wouldn’t sleep without it. The words are forever imprinted in my mind along with certain images, a mashup of reality and the pages of the book. Particular pillows, a wind-up turtle, and the objects in Clement Hurd’s flat, blocky illustrations. Things that fit logically and others that were purely sensory, like the smell of rain in the desert as night fell.

You either love this book or hate it. People spoof it and study it and draw mystifying conclusions and  interesting literary parallels. In the end, Aimee Bender suggests in this essay on writing lessons to be drawn from the book, the power of the great green room lies in the reader’s mind.