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Elsie's Bird Hardcover – September 2, 2010


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 890L (What's this?)
  • Series: AWARDS: Golden Sower Primary 2013
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Philomel; First Edition edition (September 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399252924
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399252921
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.4 x 11.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #851,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 1-4–Elsie, Boston born, loves the sounds and sights–and especially the songs–of the city, but when her mother dies, her father seeks comfort on the frontier of Nebraska. Her new prairie home is all grass and sky and silence and Elsie feels small and afraid. Her only companion, a going-away gift, is Timothy Tune, a canary with whom she exchanges songs throughout her solitary days. When the door to the cage is accidentally left open, Timothy flies free, and Elsie is devastated. Leaving her fears behind, she races through the tall grass to find him and begins to understand the sounds of the prairie and takes them to her heart. When Timothy sings his way back to her–just as her father returns from town with hens, a banty rooster, and a hound dog–Elsie realizes that, at last, she has found a "true prairie home." Yolen's evocative story, full of wonder and warmth, rolls smoothly along on carefully worded phrases, capturing the child's emotions as well as the flavor of the time and setting in a simple yet heartfelt way. Small's delivery, completely in sync with the author's, brings Elsie deftly to life. The illustrations, rendered in brush and ink with watercolor and pastel, realize both the streets of Boston and the grasslands of Nebraska with equal ease and aplomb.Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

After her mother dies, Elsie and her father leave Boston and join other pioneers making a fresh start in Nebraska. Once moved into a new sod house, Elsie feels housebound and timid, “afraid to lose herself in the silence of the prairie,” and she aches for the familiar life she left behind. She finds some comfort in singing with her pet canary, Timmy Tune, who escapes one day while Papa is shopping for supplies in town. Chasing Timmy through the sea of tall grass, Elsie listens to the songs of the wild prairie birds for the first time. When she returns home, she finds Papa, who has traded a quilt for a menagerie of new animals that, together with the wild birds, create a sweet symphony that turns “her house into a true prairie home.” Yolen’s long text will require patience from young listeners, but Elsie’s elemental feelings of dislocation and the words’ sensory imagery bring immediacy to the historical setting and are beautifully realized in Small’s mixed-media panoramas of the windswept prairie under a vast blue sky. Grades K-3. --Gillian Engberg

More About the Author

Born and raised in New York City, Jane Yolen now lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts. She attended Smith College and received her master's degree in education from the University of Massachusetts. The distinguished author of more than 170 books, Jane Yolen is a person of many talents. When she is not writing, Yolen composes songs, is a professional storyteller on the stage, and is the busy wife of a university professor, the mother of three grown children, and a grandmother. Active in several organizations, Yolen has been on the Board of Directors of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, was president of the Science Fiction Writers of America from 1986 to 1988, is on the editorial board of several magazines, and was a founding member of the Western New England Storytellers Guild, the Western Massachusetts Illustrators Guild, and the Bay State Writers Guild. For twenty years, she ran a monthly writer's workshop for new children's book authors. In 1980, when Yolen was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree by Our Lady of the Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts, the citation recognized that "throughout her writing career she has remained true to her primary source of inspiration--folk culture." Folklore is the "perfect second skin," writes Yolen. "From under its hide, we can see all the shimmering, shadowy uncertainties of the world." Folklore, she believes, is the universal human language, a language that children instinctively feel in their hearts. All of Yolen's stories and poems are somehow rooted in her sense of family and self. The Emperor and the Kite, which was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1983 for its intricate papercut illustrations by Ed Young, was based on Yolen's relationship with her late father, who was an international kite-flying champion. Owl Moon, winner of the 1988 Caldecott Medal for John Schoenherr's exquisite watercolors, was inspired by her husband's interest in birding. Yolen's graceful rhythms and outrageous rhymes have been gathered in numerous collections. She has earned many awards over the years: the Regina Medal, the Kerlan Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Society of Children's Book Writers Award, the Mythopoetic Society's Aslan Award, the Christopher Medal, the Boy's Club Jr. Book Award, the Garden State Children's Book Award, the Daedalus Award, a number of Parents' Choice Magazine Awards, and many more. Her books and stories have been translated into Japanese, French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Afrikaans, !Xhosa, Portuguese, and Braille. With a versatility that has led her to be called "America's Hans Christian Andersen," Yolen, the child of two writers, is a gifted and natural storyteller. Perhaps the best explanation for her outstanding accomplishments comes from Jane Yolen herself: "I don't care whether the story is real or fantastical. I tell the story that needs to be told."

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As a kid I was read a fair amount of Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Over the years a fair amount of what I heard has faded into the mists of memory. However, there is one Little House scenario that stuck with me all through my childhood and cropped up recently in my adult memory as well. It is the moment when Laura and her sister find themselves lost in the tall prairie grasses and realize they might never find their way out again. That image of children lost in grass stretching high above their heads stayed with me. Then time passed and I forgot all about it. Your average New Yorker's encounter with tall grasses extends pretty much as far as the new High Line Park and no farther. Yet with the recent discovery of Elsie's Bird, I got my childhood memory back again. The dual Caldecott winners Jane Yolen and David Small come together at long last to tell the tale of a girl, a bird, and a prairie. It's the kind of book that will wedge its way into the minds of other child readers, causing them to also think of grass as a potential enemy and birds in the wild as more than just background noise.

Elsie leads a happy life in Boston, even after her mother's death. However, her father finds that the city reminds him too much of his beloved wife, so he packs up Elsie and their belongings and sets off for a sod house in Nebraska to start a whole new life. Young Elsie is allowed to bring her canary Timmy Tune along with her, and he quickly becomes the one bright spot in the midst of her severe Boston homesickness. One day while her father is out, Timmy escapes from Elsie's cage and without thinking the girl plunges into the thick of the tall grasses to find him once more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Barker on October 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Journey back in time and envelope yourself in the sounds and sights that surround Elsie in her changing world. I loved the way the art and words come together and weave a story rich in complexity, but simple and innocent as well. I felt very much as if I, too, were leaving Boston and all that I knew for life on the prairie. It's easy to get swept away by Jane Yolen and David Small. - Biblio Reads Children's Book Review
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is one of those timeless stories that deal with loss and life, and new beginnings. It is a poignant and bittersweet tale that resonated so deeply with me that I have since re-read it multiple times (though initially I checked it out of the library to share with my young daughter).

Young Elsie has always lived in Boston and loves its cobbled streets and busy sounds. Things change when Elsie's mother dies. Overcome by grief, her father decides to move them both to Nebraska, to the wild prairie land. Initially, Elsie has no idea what to expect and looks forward to the adventure, but when she realizes the remoteness of their new home, reality sinks in and Elsie is overcome by homesickness. She refuses to step out of the home, and spends her days singing old Bostonian tunes and keeping company with her pet canary, Timmy Tune.

It is only when Timmy Tune accidentally gets out of the cage one day that Elsie is compelled to leave the safe confines of her prairie home and venture out into the tall prairie grass, in search of her canary. As Elsie makes her way through the grass, she finally begins to listen to the sounds around her - the wind rippling the grass, the cries of the wild geese and sandhill cranes...

This is a story that will resonate with anyone who has had to cope with loss and who has had to make a new life far from home. It is a story that can be appreciated on many levels by both children and adults, the mark of a true classic.
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