Bird Boy (An Inclusive Children's Book)

Image of Bird Boy (An Inclusive Children's Book)
Release Date: 
July 20, 2021
Knopf Books for Young Readers
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“A world of bright imagination where kindness wins out.”

Being the new kid is never easy. In this spare and thoughtful book, Matthew Burgess shows how Nico finds “other things to do besides sports and standing in huddles, whispering.” The other students may not play with him, but Nico finds company in nature, “watching the insects crossing a crack in the blacktop” and sitting still enough to encourage birds to approach. The other kids mock Nico for playing with feathered friends, calling him “Bird Boy.” Rather than feel pained by the taunt, Nico accepts the nickname as right for him. Yes, he is Bird Boy, a name of powerful freedom rather than an insult.

By reacting to the other kids with a calm and a centered sense of self, Nico proves his worth to his fellow students. He stays true to himself and the same quiet that attracted the birds slowly attracts other kids. The illustrator, Shahrzad Maydani, shows this transformation beautifully with Nico and his new friends drawing colorful birds. Maydani includes kids of all ethnicities and abilities, with a lot of space given to a girl in a wheelchair (she even swings in a special platform that holds her wheelchair).

Together, Burgess and Maydani have created a world of bright imagination where kindness wins out. The cover bears the tag “Be Who You Want to Be” and the interior pages echo that message without veering into heavy-handed preaching (an all-too-common fault in such well-intentioned stories). The subject demands a light touch, and that’s exactly what happens, both in the spare text and the airy art.