cover image The Bird House

The Bird House

Cynthia Rylant. Blue Sky Press (AZ), $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-590-47345-3

Together again, Rylant and Moser (Appalachia) here intertwine themes of nature and human loss into a modern-day fairy tale. Cheerless and homeless, a girl is ambling along a river when her sadness is arrested by the sight of a bright blue house thronged by birds: ""Sparrows sat on windowsills. Swallows slept in the chimney. Wrens flew in and out. And a great barred owl roosted above the front door."" As the girl hides behind a tree, an old woman opens the door; the girl sees nuthatches, hummingbirds and a cooing dove ""that followed the old woman everywhere she went."" Returning in secret the next day, the girl is dismayed when her presence is sensed--not by the old woman but by the birds, which flock to the sky and fly in a pattern that says ""GIRL."" This supple connection between the natural world and the human psyche effortlessly propels the tale and sweetens the inevitable bond between the old woman and the girl. While Moser masterfully creates atmosphere through dappled backgrounds, a robin's-egg-blue Tudor house, exquisitely personable birds and a range of emotions, Rylant relates the story in comfortable yet restrained prose. As an added bonus, her casual observations of distinct habits of birds will unobtrusively inform fledgling ornithologists. A book with wings. Ages 6-9. (Sept.)