MY BEAUTIFUL BIRDS
Suzanne Del Rizzo
Pajama Press 2017
A moving story about one boy’s refugee experience in the Syrian Civil War and the birds who help him on the road to emotional healing
Behind Sami, the Syrian skyline is full of smoke. The boy follows his family and all his neighbours in a long line, as they trudge through the sands and hills to escape the bombs that have destroyed their homes. But all Sami can think of is his pet pigeons—will they escape too? When they reach a refugee camp and are safe at last, everyone settles into the tent city. But though the children start to play and go to school again, Sami can’t join in. When he is given paper and paint, all he can do is smear his painting with black. He can’t forget his birds and what his family has left behind.
One day a canary, a dove, and a rose finch fly into the camp. They flutter around Sami and settle on his outstretched arms. For Sami it is one step in a long healing process at last.
A gentle yet moving story of refugees of the Syrian civil war, My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo illuminates the ongoing crisis as it affects its children. It shows the reality of the refugee camps, where people attempt to pick up their lives and carry on. And it reveals the hope of generations of people as they struggle to redefine home.
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Awards and Honours:
Junior Library Guild Selection 2017
School Library Journal blogger Elizabeth Bird’s “2017 Picture Books I Am Really Looking Forward To” selection
“Del Rizzo…wisely focuses on what Sami sees and feels without trying to explain too much of the context, relying instead on her visuals to provide this information….These skillful and imaginative illustrations—created with Plasticine, polymer clay, and other media—give a sense of dimension, which is enhanced by striking and unusual perspectives. My Beautiful Birds is a lovely, timely book.”—Quill & Quire **Starred Review**
“Del Rizzo uses her considerable talent with paint, Plasticine, and polymer clay to create the colorful, highly textured illustrations for this book, which she conceived while searching for a way to explain the Syrian civil war to her young children. Based on a real refugee child who keeps birds, this story isn’t about war but its effect on those who experience it and survive. This story of one frightened little boy who finds strength in caring for animals and uses that strength to comfort other kids is an excellent means of explaining a difficult subject to young children.”—Kirkus Reviews