Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Dawn Chorus by Suzanne Barton

Peep loves music and singing, and so when he wakes up early one morning and hears beautiful music swaying through the trees he just knows he has to find out where it’s coming from. And when he tracks the singers down - the Dawn Chorus - their conductor agrees to let Peep audition – yay! He has to be there bright and early the next morning, but after practicing late into the night he oversleeps and misses the audition. Will the Dawn Chorus give Peep another chance?

The Dawn Chorus is a very simple story with beautiful illustrations that feature lots of different coloured birds, leafy trees and starry nights. They’re bold and clear whilst being endearing and sweet.  I also like that whilst this is a story about animals, the images of them aren’t personified, fitting perfectly with the story that’s being told, which has its basis in nature.

Peep tries really hard to get to his audition and do his best, but he just doesn’t seem to be able pull it off, despite all the practice he puts in. But we soon discover a very good reason for this: he’s a nightingale! So he’s a beautiful singer, but its just not in his nature to sing at dawn. This idea really reminds me of something I heard recently in regards to children who have learning challenges: it’s easy for others to think that because a child isn’t performing well in something that we think they should be to do, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t trying – there might, after all, be another explanation. And: they might not be great at what we think they should be great at, but they will in all likelihood be great at something else. Just like Peep.

My only criticism is that I wasn’t blown away by the text/voice in the book (reading it to myself, I found it a tad stilted somehow – perhaps just a little too careful), but what The Dawn Chorus does do is tell a straight forward story without going around the houses (like a lot of picture books are apt to do today). Suzanne Barton knew what she wanted to say, and she does so with aplomb. A beautifully put together little book that I think will be more fun to read out loud with young children than quietly to one’s adult self.

[This book has been shortlisted for the 2015 Waterstones Children's Book Prize!]

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