cover image Today at the Bluebird Caf: A Branchful of Birds

Today at the Bluebird Caf: A Branchful of Birds

Deborah Ruddell, , illus. by Joan Rankin. . S&S/McElderry, $15.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-87153-5

This collection of poems, with its lyrical text and highly detailed illustrations, is an ode to our fine-feathered friends. Newcomer Ruddell demonstrates a passion for winged creatures that readers may well find both palpable and infectious. Each poem pays homage to a particular bird, incorporating its unique characteristics, such as the loon's high-pitched cry ("A wail. A chuckle. A shriek at the moon./ You pull up your covers. You hope it's a loon") or the great horned owl's "puffed-up chest in a fancy vest." While Ruddell has clearly done her homework—the poems highlight the familiar backyard feeder cardinal and blue jay, as well as the more elusive hoopoe and ibis—her voice never assumes an authoritative pitch. Rather, her tone remains playful and often humorous throughout (e.g., a reference to the woodpecker's "aftertaste/ of bark"). Standout images include the title poem's hot spot, where you can sample "a sip of lake and a bite of the sky," and the delicious verse of "The Cockatoo," which is likened to "one of the those wedding cakes/ with frosting swoops and coconut flakes." Rankin's lush watercolor renderings of the birds in action convey an impressive range, from a realistic depiction of a hummingbird hidden among long-stemmed honeysuckles to the fantastical setting for the swan ("Fairy-tale bird on a moonlit pond, pulled by stars or a magic wand"). Ages 4-10. (Feb.)