cover image Bird, Balloon, Bear

Bird, Balloon, Bear

Il Sung Na. Knopf, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-55155-0

Bird is new in the forest and looking for a friend—but he’s shy. When he sees Bear, he’s overcome with bashfulness (the red plumage on Bird’s head gives him something of a permanent blush). With sweet wit, Na (The Opposite Zoo) translates human social awkwardness into the language of forest creatures. Unable to strike up a conversation with Bear, Bird lurks behind a rock, hides in the bushes, then leans oh so casually against a tree, longing to be noticed. The forest’s ethereal, lavender trees offer contrast to the tubby shapes of both creatures, and also to a red balloon that floats into sight. Bear is smitten—with the balloon (“The friends spent all their time together. They played. They danced”). Bear isn’t spurning Bird when he chooses Balloon; he just noticed Balloon first. It isn’t until something happens to Balloon that Bear finally sees Bird. Making friends doesn’t involve a magic formula or the right words; sometimes it’s just a matter of patience and timing. Any reader who has suffered on the sidelines will feel instant sympathy for Bird. Ages 2–5. (Mar.)