Sunday, August 17, 2008

Urban birds in love

Fly High, Fly Low
by Don Freeman
1957, Viking Books

(Puffin paperback, 2007)
A Caldecott Honor book

I've long had a thing for pigeons -- stoic commuters who seem to inhabit a world of their own, just below the scope of our ordinary notice. People don't bother with these urban birds much, and they return the favor, barely bothering to glance over their feathered shoulders as they dodge looming cars or passing joggers.

People? Whatever. Pigeons have things to do, places to go.

My daughter admires them too, exclaiming "Oh, birdie!" at each sighting, as awed as if she had spotted some rare egret. Given an expanse of grass she will run at them till they grow concerned enough to take flight -- which for a pigeon is quite concerned indeed, equivalent to at least an orange alert. Even then, they don't go far and Rosie waits happily for them to touch back down.

Lately, she has learned to flap her arms as she runs, declaring, "I'm flying."

So the timing was perfect for us to discover this whimsical avian romance, nestled amid the children's paperbacks at an independent bookstore. As a kid I loved "Corduroy," Freeman's beloved tale of a department store bear in search of his missing button. But for some reason I'd never encountered "Fly Low, Fly High" -- perhaps because I grew up in the Midwest?

This San Francisco-centric picture book is a natural for most any child, but especially those in Bay Area, who will enjoy the bird's eye view of familiar landmarks:

By noontime Sid and Midge could be seen sailing high
in the sky, flying into one cloud and out the other.
Side by side the glided over the bay

until they could look down and see the Golden Gate bridge.

Sid would swoop and fly through the open arches just

to show Midge what a good looper he was...

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