Sometimes I fall in love with the strange beauty of a book. Its “je ne sais quoi.” Such is the case for this lovely picture book created by Gus Gordon and edited by the legendary Neal Porter of Roaring Brook Press. Yes, the book is from 2017. Neal Porter is now making waves with his imprint at Holiday House.
Back to the lovely strangeness.
George is a homebody bird compared to all his bird friends who are busy flying elsewhere.
He centers his life on the wonders of baking and the comforts of home.
Other opportunities to fly with friends beckon, but George turns them down. And he finds himself alone. All because he never learned to fly.
His friend, Pascal, a bear who’s looking for a warm place to spend the winter, is determined to help him. And yes, after multiple often humorous failures, the pair figure out a way to fly off together. He and Pascal make a delightful pair.
But in the end, the adventure, though glorious, is balanced with George’s need for home and his home cooking—before heading off for adventures the next winter.
I adore the eclectic mix of watercolor, pencil, crayon and collage of antique papers that comprise the illustrations. The end papers contain a wonderful display of suitcases.
The whole book has an old-fashioned, international (actually French) feel. It’s not just the old-time suitcases, it’s also the French phrases and locations sprinkled throughout, a wonderful illustration/collage of the Eiffel Tower. Pascal the bear, Penelope Thornwhistle the owl, and Walter Greenburg the pigeon who begs George to come see Paris. And the flock (all wearing old-fashioned hats) who talk of the tundra and its exquisite beauty. I could pore over the illustrations for days. Oh, and I want George’s newsboy hat for my very own!
There is humor: at one point George uses the excuse that his yoga class conflicts with going elsewhere. And the Laurel and Hardy aspect of Pascal and George’s relationship is funny and heartwarming. So much to love about this book!
It’s a cozy and wonderfully glorious look at friendship and figuring out how to stretch your wings while retaining an appreciation (dare I say love?) for what you leave behind and long to return to.
Make paper birds that fly
Check out places around the world on National Geographic Kids. Where would you like to travel? What would you miss most about home? What would you like to come home to?
Pair this book with ALBERT by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Jim LaMarche. It’s about a bird who helps a young man overcome his fear of leaving his house.
TITLE: Somewhere Else
Author/Illustrator: Gus Gordon
Publisher: Roaring Book Press, 2017
AGES: K-4th grade
Themes: adventure, the comfort of home/the known vs. the unknown, learning how “to fly”
For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.