Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wingin' It: On the Wing by David Elliott

The Caribbean Flamingo
Singular, an ember waiting to ignite.                     A conflagration.
The sky is set alight!

David Elliott's On the Wing (Candlewick Press, 2014) is an invitation even for non-birders, to look up in delight. With both lyric lines, surprisingly comic wordplay, and quirky humor, Elliott includes gives us delightful descriptions of seventeen very different birds: the hummingbird, "always in a tizzy, busy, busy, busy;" the crow, "pure caw-caw-phony;" the macaw, "Who spilled the paint?" the sparrow, who "wants to roar: small cousin of the dinosaur; "and America's favorite redbird:

The Cardinal
He's a hot shot Valentine.She's a plain Jane.
But one without the other? A song with no refrain.

From ordinary urban chirpers to the majestic eagle, condor, and albatross, Elliott varies his poetry from decorous couplets and quipping quatrains to haiku and free verse, all set to the elegant artwork of Becca Stadtlander, whose illustrations are both as natural as a snapshot or as stylized as a Greek frieze. This is a poetry book that soars as gracefully as the crane on its cover, a delightful way to see all sorts of birds in all of their glory. As Kirkus Reviews says in a starred review, "From the graceful cranes flying across its wraparound cover to the single feather on the title page to the soaring eagle at the end, this book astounds."

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