Stories from the Middle East

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My Beautiful Birds
Authors:
Suzanne Del Rizzo
Artists:
Suzanne Del Rizzo
Format: Hardcover
Grade Levels: 1; 2; 3; 4; 5;

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 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.

Awards

  • 2017 Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children's Literature Winner
  • 2018 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for Canada Winner
  • 2017 Middle East Book Award: Picture Books Honor Book

Reviews
"If you've been wondering how to present the refugee crisis to children without losing faith in humanity, take a look at this graceful, even uplifting book."—The New York Times

"[T]his story draws attention to an important world issue without subjecting young readers to its harshest realities."—Booklist

"Del Rizzo uses polymer clay and acrylic paint to create vibrant pictures of Sami, his family, the refugee camp, and the swirling pink-and-purple sky. Most of all, she creates birds for which every feather and color looks real. Beauty and sorrow sit side by side in this compassionate and age-appropriate depiction of contemporary refugee life."—The Horn Book Magazine

"Exquisite dimensional illustrations...bring a unique, lifelike quality to the page, enriching Sami's story to its fullest potential when paired with the often lyrical prose. VERDICT: A stunning offering for libraries wishing to add to their collection of hopeful yet realistic refugee tales."—School Library Journal

"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

"STARRED REVIEW 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

"Illustrations in polymer clay and acrylic paint show Sami's slow transition into in his new life. The author's note provides context about the Syrian war and information about the refugee camps."—ILA Literacy Daily, "Stories of Young Immigrants and Refugees"

"Suzanne Del Rizzo offers a poignant story of a Syrian child refugee traumatized by leaving his cherished pigeons behind. It is a tale of sorrow and suffering and promise, and beautifully rendered in Suzanne Del Rizzo's distinctive art....My Beautiful Birds provides a promise that all the darkness from that Syrian skyline of smoke is behind Sami and remains open to a bright sky of birds and lightness, the landscape of his future."—CanLit for LittleCanadians

Educator Information
An author's note provides more information about the ongoing crisis in Syria.

Additional Information
32 pages | 8.45" x 10.28"

Authentic Canadian Content
$19.95

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