cover image BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH: Bird Tales from Around the World

BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH: Bird Tales from Around the World

Howard Norman, , illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon. . Harcourt/Gulliver, $22 (78pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201982-2

The team behind The Girl Who Dreamed Only Geese here presents five tales from Australia, Norway, Sri Lanka, Africa's Matabelel and China—each, in some form or another, about birds. Told to Norman by native speakers at a folktale conference (detailed and credited in an afterword), the tales are transformed, in his hands, into a handful of literary gems. A storyteller's cadence will draw in youngsters ("A pelican's shadow racing along the surface of the water is a frightful thing to a fleeing fish," observes the omniscient narrator of "The Disobedient Pelican Daughter"), while the stories themselves turn convention upside-down. A blind man knows more about birds than the seeing man who tries to outwit him; rude, toothy beasts treat each other with kindness and civility; and death does not take parents, but transforms them into swans, still visible to the loyal son (in "The Swan-Scholar's Great Secret") through a magic telescope ("They were flying over gorge trees, then landed on the water. Chiao said, 'I love you without end,' as was his custom"). The Dillons' paintings suggest stained-glass windows. Bold outlines of stylized figures, etched lightly with white, enhance the sense of jeweled delicacy. Landscapes unfold as a wealth of geometric and floral patterns in sunset pastels. Like a concerto with fast and slow movements, the funny, fast-moving stories will be relished by younger listeners, while older readers may find themselves drawn to the moments of quiet sadness. Ages 7-10. (Oct.)