Basil's Birds by Lynn Rowe Reed is one of those books where the cover drew me in. I mean, take a look. There's a guy with a bird's nest on his head, and birds flying about, and he's smiling sort of a cheesy smile. Doesn't get much more kid-friendly than that, I'd say.
Basil Berkmeister is an elementary school janitor. When Principal Kabalsky orders him to get rid of the multitude of birds around the school, he works so hard that he wears himself out. While he naps, the birds find "the perfect place to build a new nest" - the top of Basil's head. Feeling sorry for the bird who worked so hard to build the nest, Basil decides to keep it (it's also a "great conversation piece", after all). And when three baby bird arrive, well, Basil learns what it's like to be a parent.
The illustrations in Basil's Birds are quite eye-catching. They were originally painted onto illustration boards, but then various scanned and photographed items were added via Photoshop. The bird's nest, for example, is a photo of a real bird's nest (photographed by Brian Art). And the birds were made of clay, and then scanned in. This causes the birds and nest to positively leap from the page, and is sure to intrigue curious young readers.
I also like the way that the story, although completely ridiculous, is told dead-pan. Like, let's just accept that this guy is going to walk around with a bird on his head, and focus on what he might feed the birds, and how best to entertain them. The picture of Basil singing lullabies to his baby birds, as they sing back, is my favorite.
There's a happy ending, but there's no moral, no lesson, nothing much to be learned. Basil's Birds is just what a reader expects from the first glimpse of the cover: pure entertainment. Recommended for preschool and elementary school readers, and anyone else with a keen appreciation for the ridiculous. This one is definitely going on our "keep" shelf.
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).