Vintage Finds: The Dead Bird

Burgin Streetman
July 21, 2016

I originally heard about The Dead Bird from a friend of mine who referenced it while helping her daughter understand the death of her pet goldfish. Written by everyone's favorite children's book author, Margaret Wise Brown, with pictures by Remy Charlip, it is the captivating story of a group of children who find a dead bird in the woods and decide to give it a proper, if morose and melancholy, send off.

The children felt with
their fingers for the quick beat of the bird's
heart in its breast. But there was no heart
beating. That was how they knew it was dead.

Since Ms. Brown gets so much love from me, I'll give props to Mr. Charlip who not only illustrated a ton of kiddie books, but was also a world renown choreographer; famous for sketching his dances on paper. That natural flow is evidenced here ten fold through serene color and simple drawings that do, quite literally, dance on the page.

Whimsical yet slightly over dramatic, the tale perfectly nails a child's penchant for hyperbole in the face of trauma. Those little scenes of childhood, when we behave in the way we think we should behave based solely on how we've seen others react in similar situations. Not yet fully understanding our feelings yet still participating in the solemn pageant of life.

And every day, until they forgot,
they went and sang to their little dead
bird and put fresh flowers on his grave.

If you are looking for a title to use as a conversation starter about death with your children, pick up this out-of-print classic from your local library.

From the Parents

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