cover image On the Wing

On the Wing

David Elliott, illus. by Becca Stadtlander. Candlewick, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5324-8

Elliott (On the Farm; In the Wild) adds a celebration of birds to his collection of lighthearted animal poetry. The subjects range from familiar backyard neighbors to birds best from nature documentaries: the Andean condor, the puffin, and the bowerbird (“Nature’s fussy,/ lovesick architect”). Some are described in rhyming verse, while others are captured in telegraphic, haikulike fragments. In “The Macaw,” accompanied by newcomer Stadtlander’s painting of the bird’s wildly colored plumage, Elliott writes simply, “Who/ spilled/ the/ paint?” Stadtlander has the challenging job of following in the footsteps of Elliott’s late collaborator Holly Meade (to whom Elliott dedicates this book). Stadtlander paints the birds with meticulous care, framing them against majestic, muted backgrounds whose overcast skies lend a somber feel. In one spread, the bent legs and swooping necks of courting Japanese cranes form an elegant frieze of classical dimensions. While the seriousness of the images is sometimes at cross-purposes with Elliott’s humor, it’s just right for the poet’s more lyrical moments, as when a bald eagle “circles like a prayer,/ on the rising columns/ of the shining,/ sun-warmed air.” Ages 3–7. Illustrator’s agent: Anne Moore Armstrong, Bright Agency. (Sept.)