cover image Once, a Bird

Once, a Bird

Rina Singh, illus. by Nathalie Dion. Orca, $21.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-459-83143-8

In the opening sequence of this eerie wordless picture book, a bird resembling a robin alights on snowy branches, then flies over cloverleaf highways and sectional croplands without encountering a single person. In lichen-green and pale blue watercolor and gouache panels, Dion shows the bird perched solo at an empty playground and bathing in a fountain, and what initially seems peaceful begins to feel troubling. As buds arrive on trees, the bird descends through chalky clouds to a branch near an apartment building, where its song inspires astonished humans, portrayed with various skin tones, to look, leading to moments of connection. Even after the bird raises three young—drawing people to their windows and even out of doors—the title’s unsettling opening lingers, seeming to offer a subtext-heavy ecological warning that lands without much explanation. Ages 3–5. (Sept.)