Once, A Bird by Rita Singh and Nathalie Dion

Note: I occasionally accept review copies from the publisher. Posts written from review copies are labeled. All opinions are my own. Posts may contain affiliate links. I may receive compensation for any purchased items.

Once, a Bird by by Rina Singh and Nathalie Dion (Orca Book Publishers, September 2023) is a gorgeously illustrated wordless picture book that takes readers on a journey through the eyes of a bird in search of a place to settle and build a nest. The watercolor and gouache illustrations capture the bird’s perspective as it observes a town from above.

However, I couldn’t help but feel a little lost in terms of finding a cohesive story. The initial scenes inexplicably lack cars, people, or action as the bird looks down from the sky. While the bird eventually finds a tree outside an apartment building for nest-building, the interactions with the residents felt limited. Some people watch the bird build a nest, others enjoy its song, and children pass by the tree, witnessing the bird’s journey from hatching eggs to teaching them to fly.

Although Once, a Bird falls short in terms of character development and a compelling storyline, its strongest aspect lies in its visually captivating illustrations. The artwork beautifully portrays the bird’s flight and its eventual nesting spot, as well as the joy the building’s occupants find in listening to the bird’s song. While I hoped for more depth and engagement from the narrative, the book’s artistic presentation is undeniably its standout feature.

While it may not have a pressing storyline, as a wordless book, Once, A Bird encourages children to create their own narratives as they observe each page. They can explore the sounds, feelings, and perspectives that each of the images evoke. Thought it may not be an ideal material for a read aloud, it has the potential to inspire children in their own storytelling endeavors. Teachers or homeschool parents may want to consider using Once, A Bird as an elementary-level writing prompt.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advance review copy of this book provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Reviewed on June 15, 2023

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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