BIlly the Bird by Dick King-Smith, 67 pages, RL 2

Sadly, Billy the Bird is no longer in print, but there is a good chance your library will have it since Dick King-Smith, author of Waterhorse and Babe, the Gallant Pig, is well known and prolific, many of his books coming in at under 100 pages. It is such a short and sweet story with a boy as the main character that I will review it anyway. If you can't find this book, please do seek out other Dick King-Smith, all of which involves great animal characters in one way or another.

Mary Bird is eight the summer she discovers her four-year-old brother Billy can fly under the light of a full moon. As Mary says, "he wasn't walking in his sleep, he was floating in it!" After consulting her guinea pig, Mr Keylock, and her cat Lilyleaf, both of whom can talk, Mary figures out when the next full moon will occur and their adventures begin. Billy is mistaken for a UFO and thwarts a cat burglar before a lunar eclipse ends his flying days. The cozy illustrations are a great addition to the story.

If your child likes Billy the Bird, suggest Flat Stanley.


Donna said…
I borrowed the book yesterday and when my son saw the cover he kept asking himself aloud as we walked from the library, "I wonder why that little boy can fly." We read 1/3 last night and left off at a very suspenseful part with the cat burglar. My son has already told me he can't wait til bedtime to finish:-)I was not familiar with David King Smith before and was amazed at what a prolific writer he is. I cannot wait to borrow more. Sorry if my praise of you becomes effusive, but really this blog is one of the best things I have discovered since having children. There is simply no way that the average person can be aware of all these wonderful books, as you said 5k new ones every year, because you have to wade through too much insipid rubbish to get to the quality.
Tanya said…
YAY! I am so glad you found this book. I hate to review books that are out of print, but do so anyway knowing they must be on a library shelf SOMEWHERE! And you are one of the lucky ones who found it!!! I am so glad your son is enthralled with the book. Dick King-Smith is amazingly prolific and the best part is that most of his books are 2nd and 3rd grade reading level and a nice break from Magic Tree House... You will probably be crossing that bridge with your son in a year or two! And thanks for commenting on everything! I love to know that I am putting something helpful out in the world and that other people share my taste. And, most of all that kids like your son are excited about books!!
Donna said…
I might purchase this book used off of Amazon because while we own almost 200 mainly picture books but some chapters books, maybe 15% have human boys as central characters. I don't know why there are so few in the picture book category. You can't swing a stick without hitting books with girl characters from Madeline to Pinkalicious. So whenever I see a boy book, I usually try and purchase it. We love Billy and his horse Blaze books written by C.W. Anderson in the 30's and 40's. The charcoal drawings are lovely. We love all the Boy, Dog, Frog wordless picture books from Mercer Mayer. The boys and my husband and I laugh out loud at these books. The stories are hysterical. If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen is so imaginative that the boys have spent long stretches of time pouring over the illustrations. We just checked out approx. 15 books and purchased a few on your recommendation and we will spend the next 2 weeks reading them and will let you know what the boys think.
Tanya said…
Now you've got me thinking about the ratio of girls to boys as main characters i picture books - definitely worth more investigation on my part! I suspect you are right, though. Picture books seem to be the domain (these days) of spunk girl characters. I don't think this really balances out until you get to chapter books. But, in my recollection, there are more"girl" themed books at the 2nd grade reading level than there are boys. I think things don't start to balance out until 4th grade level, and then it tips in favor of boys as the main character for sure. Hm. So fascinating! I am going to take some serious notes while at work today!

I LOVE Mayer's Boy, Frog & Dog books! I had one as a kid, the one where they go to the restaurant, and I was SURE that the woman in the restaurant was a drawing of Barbra Streisand!

Check out (if you haven't already) The Salamander Room by Mazer and The Best Pet of All by La Rochelle. Two good picture books with boys!
Donna said…
We own The Salamander Room. The illustrations are so lush. The boys love to discuss how the little boy's room changes with each page to resemble a forest. I have to check out the other book. It sounds slightly similar to Steve Kellogg's Can I Keep Him which we enjoyed.

While it does seem to me that there are more books with human girls than boys, now that I think about it more, my complaint is probably better stated as the striking contrast between the number of books with animal as main characters as opposed to human males as main characters. We love love love our anthropomorphic animal character books, but it would be nice if there were more real human male characters. That is why we loved Beatty's Iggy Peck and David McPhail Edward books etc.

Yes, I don't even have to pull out the "Frog Goes to Dinner" book. I have read it so many times I know the woman you are referring to. The frog jumps into her husband's champagne glass. She does bear a striking resemblance to "Babs". Although the little boy's mother also resembles Babs too.
Tanya said…
I thought about the ratio of boy:girl characters in picture books as I rearranged all 12 shelves of the picture book display at work yesterday. While I think that animals as characters definitely outweigh humans as characters in the books, I still think girls tip the scales. Although, I think that the number of boys represented as animals may outweigh that of girls as animals.

I am taking notes and will be writing my doctoral dissertation on this any day now...

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