Bryan, Ashley. Beautiful Blackbird. New York: Atheneum Books, 2003. ISBN 0689847319.
2. PLOT SUMMARY
Using the rhythm of the sing-song style of the Ila-speaking people of Zambia, Ashley Bryan tells the tale of how the Blackbird, once voted the most beautiful bird of all, painted markings of black on all the other birds. From this, he shares his give of beauty, but reiterates that it is what is inside that makes him different and beautiful. Each bird receives special markings to be beautiful in their own way, but Blackbird keeps what makes him special from his heritage on the inside – something that can’t be given away.
3. CRITICAL ANALYSIS
Mr. Bryan’s simple colored cutouts, paired with the effortless rhythms and repetition of the musical language in this tale will connect with young readers, reinforcing Blackbird’s message of each bird being different. The simple songs and dances provide an easy way for those unable to sit still to join in the telling of the story. What really stands out is the carefully cut birds, which dance across the pages, even before their distinguishing marks. The writer/artist even includes an image of the scissors he used, which were his own mother’s sewing scissors, helping to tie the beauty of the pages and story to his own roots and childhood.
4. REVIEW EXCERPT(S)
2004 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award
From PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY – “Scenes of the rainbow of wings are outdone only by a lakeside view of their colors intricately "mirrored in the waters." And Bryan's lilting and magical language is infectious.”
From SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL REVIEWER CAROL ANN WILSON – “This unusual and little-known pour quoi tale may supplement larger collections and serves as a thoughtful and entertaining addition to units on self-esteem.”
Gather other books that teach self-esteem and acceptance of other cultures, such as:
• Brown, Monica. Ills. Sara Palacios. MARISOL MCDONALD DOESN’T MATCH. ISBN 0892392355
• Colato Lainez, Rene. Ills. Fabiola Graullera Ramirez. RENE HAS TWO LAST NAMES / RENE TIENE DOS APELLIDOS. ISBN 1558855300
Gather other Ashley Bryan books to read such as:
• BEAT THE STORY DRUM, PUM PUM. ISBN 068931356X
• LION AND THE OSTRICH CHICKS. ISBN 0153022299