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Calvin Can't Fly: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie Paperback – May 5, 2015
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From Publishers Weekly
From School Library Journal
PreS-K–While Calvin's siblings learn things birds need to know, the young starling has his beak buried in books. He reads adventure stories, legends, and poetry while his brothers and sisters chase bugs and learn to fly. Calvin is happiest in the library. “His books took him to places wings never could. And his heart fluttered with excitement.” When autumn arrives, all the starlings prepare to go south–except Calvin. The flock takes off without him, but his brothers and sisters come to his aid. They tie strings around his waist and take off, towing Calvin along with them. He is excited as he sees the things he's read about, but soon he senses that they are heading into a hurricane. The starlings don't know what a hurricane is but heed his warning and take refuge in a cave. They are safe as the storm roars by. During the celebration that follows, Calvin hops and flaps in jubilation and realizes that he does know how to fly. The gouache illustrations show the starlings looking square and rather penguinlike. The pictures are pleasant but not interesting enough to carry the slight story. While a book that touts the pleasure and usefulness of reading is usually welcome, this one falls short.–Ieva Bates, Ann Arbor District Library, MIα(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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As a young starling, unlike his cousins and siblings who “chased beetles, bugs, and ants,” Calvin “buried his beak in books.” Too busy reading, Calvin never learns to fly. When it comes time to fly South for the winter, Calvin’s siblings and cousins carry him by “tying up Calvin’s middle with string and scraps of cloth they had found in the garbage,” which makes for some humorous and sweet illustrations. But, when the group is about to fly into a hurricane, Calvin’s book knowledge saves the day.
A book lover myself, of course I appreciate the fact that Calvin Can’t Fly is about a book lover who couldn’t help but do what he loved. I also love that he gets called “nerdy birdie” and is “somewhat embarrassed” when his starling relatives begin to carry him South. Being true to oneself is not all rainbows and flowers (and books), and these two details capture that. I think it is wonderful that Calvin’s relatives do the right thing – tow him South – before he saves the day. Children (and many adults!) need to know that when faced with someone different, limited and/or annoying, doing the right thing is always the right choice.
We live in a different-strokes-for-different-folks kind of world. We always have, and we always will. The sooner we provide our children with models of divergence and respect for those who are different from them, the more likely they are to thrive socially and embrace what is different about themselves.
Calvin will inspire both the jocks and the nerds to be kind, to march (or fly – can’t help myself) to the beat of their own drum, and – just maybe – to go read some books.
As good as the author's intentions are, trying to encourage reading, the moral of the story appears to be "As long as what you're doing is a good deed you can do whatever you want even if it goes against what you were told to do."