cover image The Old Lady and the Birds

The Old Lady and the Birds

Tony Johnston. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-15-257769-8

Garcia's complex, mixed-media dioramas give considerable heft to Johnston's quiet tale about a Mexican woman enjoying the birds in her garden. The old lady delights in the ladroncillos that fly away with bits of tortilla or pieces of broom or ribbon they have ``stolen'' from her. A full and happy day consists of protecting her feathered friends from an eager and adventurous cat as they build nests and splash in the birdbath. Johnston's gentle, grandmotherly tone captures the joy to be found in appreciating simple pleasures. Spanish words, such as bolillos (rolls), and azucar (sugar), are unobstrusively woven into the story via the old lady's exclamations. Definitions for the foreign terms can be inferred from context clues and from the illustrations. In what occasionally recalls claymation-type sculpture, Garcia's bold three-dimensional pieces bring the kindly woman and the various winged creatures to life. Swatches of tree branches and dried leaves and flowers set an authentic scene; folk art motifs heighten the atmosphere. While not high on the excitement meter, this volume's bright and reassuring outlook holds plenty of appeal. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)