Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tough Love! Nope! A Tale of First Flight by Drew Sheneman

"Fish got to swim,

Birds got to fly...."

But maybe not this bird.

One look down... down.... down... and ... down ... from the nest and this wary little parrot scoots back, trying to get back under Mama's wing.

The sky is huge and his wings are so small. And what's down there?

Slavering gray wolves? Prowling orange cats? Circling CROCODILES?


Mama gives him THE LOOK through veiled lids. She tilts her head to indicate some fearless fledglings faithfully taking to their wings from a nearby nest. Everything about her body language says Come on, sonny, you're a BIRD. Get with the program.

Junior looks over the edge of the nest again. It's a long way to anywhere from there. Look how little his wings are? How many ways can he say NO! He tries saying in in Spanish. In German. In Russian.


He has a squawking, flapping tizzy of a tantrum.

The fainthearted fledgling huddles next to an exasperated Mama Parrot. There is a sly look on her face as she picks up her offspring, gives him a great big smackeroo on his cute little baby bill, and then...

Boots him out of the nest!


Mother knows best, in Drew Sheneman's comic lesson in avian tough love, NOPE (Viking Books, 2017). Author Sheneman's career skills as a cartoonist are put to good use in his first picture book venture, told in nothing but negative words, in assorted languages, letting the facial expressions and body language of his characters do the narrating. Fish are born in their element, but for birds, flying is a leap of faith they must elect to take.

Sheneman's illustrations, with his funny cartoon characters center stage, sunny greenery and beckoning blue sky in the background, give this one a benevolent ambiance despite its hard-nosed premise. Kids with empathize with the little parrot, reluctant to make that big step off into thin air but will ultimately cheer, as Sheneman's skittish chick falls, flutters, flaps, and finally has that first flight. With a smug, self-satisfied Yep, Mama settles back in her now empty nest, but her young one also gives her the air as he flies back up, bids Mama a fond farewell, and soars away into the wild blue yonder.

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