Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mr. Biddle and the Birds

Mr. Biddle and the Birds
by Lonzo Anderson
illustrated by Adrienne Adams
There are some books, that no matter how many times I read them with the kids, every time I open the book and begin to read, I have a strange sense of everything being topsy turvy and not quite what it appears to be.  My memories of the book are so strong, the memory of my mother reading the book to me, the memory of the couch on which I sat, where the window and the door were located in the room, my long blond hair brushing against my bare arm - all of these memories are so vivid that they jar against the real and present moment of me sitting with my own kids, the voice of the story my own instead of my mother's.
No Fighting, No Biting.  Put Me In The Zoo.  The Cat In the Hat Comes Back (not the first, strangely enough.)  A Bargain For Frances.  The Monster at the End of This Book.
All these books, and many more, give me that strange but pleasant feeling of displacement.  But the feeling is always expected.  I tracked all those books down a long time ago, even before our children were born.
But every once in a while, I happen across a book I knew as a child but had forgotten.  And when that happens, during that first reading aloud . . . well, that's one of those magical moments that brings together my mother self and child self.
For the past few years, I've been particularly drawn to the illustrations of  Adrienne Adams.  When I see her work, I have to buy it.  Her pictures, no matter the book, almost give me that feeling.  I feel as if I've seen the book before, but nothing about the book rings a bell.
Now I know why.  Mr. Biddle and the Birds, illustrated by Adams, was a childhood favorite, although I didn't know it until my son brought it to me at a bookstore a few months ago.  One glance at the cover, and I instantly knew the whole book, everything about it.
So without further ado, I give you Mr. Biddle and the Birds.
Meet Mr. Biddle.  While laying in his hammock one day, he's overcome by the desire to fly with his good friends, four very large birds.  So he came up with an idea. 
First this sketch,
then time to build.
Now, time to fit the birds for their corsets.  Yes, I did say corsets. 
How else are they to  pull Mr. Biddle's air boat?
Mr. Biddle wants to make everything is perfect before takeoff.  But the birds have other plans.  Poor Mr. Biddle barely has time to dive into the boat before it leaves the ground.
But it would seem the birds have been rather hasty in their flighty ways.  Before long, mayhem ensues.  And the flying boat, birds, and Mr. Biddle begin to go
Will they ever again get the boat to fly?
You'll have to read the book to find out.


  1. Wonderful. I enjoyed your presentation immensely. And I especially enjoyed your description of experiencing a topsy turvy melding of past and present. Are you a writer? I know you write well in this blog, but do you also write professionally?

  2. Ha! I do good to pound out a blog post once a week. I do enjoy writing, but as a homeschooling mamma trying to bring in a few extra bucks (to keep us in books) I have very little time left over. But thank you for the compliments.

  3. Heather, words like yours make me cry, although I have to say with Lisa that I enjoyed them profusely too. The void of a mother, father, or any significant one reading to me aches furiously. I only have memories of solitary moments with the books and me.

    However, my little girls will have their favorites. I have yet to see which ones come to them stronger. I wonder how they feel as they read to their children any of the many loved books we enjoy. I also read as a mother to the child inside me that was never read. I buy books for them but also for me. And I think it is fine, it is not selfish, it is a healing thing. I just got me Hoffmann's Nutcracker in Spanish, a good rendition of the German, in a cozier version than the Sendak one we have.

    The illustrations are warm, homey but elegant too.