cover image The Kingdom of Singing Birds

The Kingdom of Singing Birds

Miriam Aroner. Kar-Ben Publishing, $13.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-929371-43-6

A new king inherits a magnificent royal aviary in which dwell birds from all over the world, beautiful but utterly silent: ``Treebirds and seabirds, red, green, and blue / Shorebirds and snowbirds, so lovely to view / From India, Arabia, the wide world around / A rainbow of colors--but alas, not a sound!'' The king tries everything to bring forth birdsong--special gustatory treats, a jewel-bedecked mansion of a birdcage, magicians and musicians, witches and clowns. Nothing works until a soft-spoken rabbi gives the solution: ``If you want your birds to sing, you must let them go free.'' Unlike many folktales which demand all-or-nothing faith from their heroes, this unusually gentle story allows the king's faltering trust to grow by degrees. Letting one bird escape, he hears its song. A few more swell the chorus. Finally, the monarch frees the entire aviary, causing a crescendo of music within the kingdom. Written in occasionally lilting prose with a few verse passages, Aroner's text draws on Hasidic lore about the wise and benevolent Rabbi Zusya. Haas's light-washed, often mystical watercolors sustain the mood, more meditative than venturesome. A philosophically substantial read, the book mirrors the simplicity of its main character. Ages 5-8. (June)