In my never-ending search to discover wordless picture book titles, I came across Bob Staake’s recently published Bluebird. The soft pastel blue and gray palette invites the child reader into its pages. The simple geometric designs of the city, school, storefronts and park leave the reader focused more on the unlikely budding friendship between the characters, a sad little schoolboy and a cheery bluebird than the mundane setting. The reader watches the little boy’s transformation from loneliness to happiness on account of the bluebird’s persistent companionship. Without the use of a single word, except for some environmental print, Staake delivers an evocative narrative. The brooding darkness of the woods foreshadows the tragic climax. Yet the story brightens to a cheery and unexpected ending.
I have never experienced a “lump” in my throat while “reading” aloud a wordless picture book to my students. Bluebird is the first to accomplish such a feat! It is this ending that I chose to explore with my students. Without judgement and having already established a trusting community of learners, I solicited my students to jot down a sentence or two (on a ubiquitous yellow Post-It) to reflect upon what happened to the bluebird. Their candid responses were beyond my expectations. From the literal to the insightful and profound, here are a few of those reflections with my spelling in italics.
- “He floow away to a nusxthr sad boy.” He flew away to another sad boy.
- “the bully trogh the stick it hit bluebird He died. More birds came they lifted the boy the bluebird came alive.” The bully threw the stick. It hit bluebird. He died. More birds came. They lifted the boy. The bluebird came alive.
- “the BLow Brd wit to the KLawd.” The bluebird went to the cloud.
- “The kid let go.”
- “He DiD Not Be cerFoL with The Bird so The Bird was ded.” He wasn’t careful with the bird so the bird died.
- “He DiDe and Kam Bak to lif and He went in The klawd.” He died and came back to life and he went in the cloud.
- “Bloo Brib was hrt anb fit bitr.” Bluebird was hurt and felt better.
- “I think the bird went in the sky to hevin.” I think the bird went in the sky to heaven.
Sharing a wordless picture book like Staake’s Bluebird is reason why I have chosen such a profession. It addresses weighty and universal themes of friendship, bullying, empathy, hope, loss and comfort within the safety of its illustrations. Bluebird is destined to become a timeless story that will resonate with readers of all ages.