It’s often easy to put your finger on the theme of a picture book. But Two Many Birds requires multiple fingers. It makes you think. It makes you take another look. It makes you question. And it makes you wonder.
And that, my friends, is the peak of picture book perfection.
Oh, and it makes you laugh, too. The peak de résistance!
Starting with the cover, we see a “rulemaker” bird shouting at all of the hilariously coifed/attired birds roosting in a tree. But they don’t appear to be paying much attention to him. In fact, many look quite distracted doing other things, including yawning.
Astute readers, especially those kids who know the difference between “two” and “too,” will enjoy picking out what appears to be a misuse of the word. They will be tickled to discover mid-book why the word “two” is used.
Now, open the cover, and we’re treated to a bird waiting line on the end papers, and a sign reminiscent of any theme park, a “15 minute wait from this point” marker.
[My apologies for the bleached out scan. The actual colors are as brilliant as those featured on the cover.]
The birds are all waiting in line for tickets to perch in a solitary, giant tree. And the rulemaker bird is responsible for making sure that the tree doesn’t exceed a maximum occupancy of 100 birds. His digital counter keeps track.
But that’s not all, this grumpy authoritarian bird makes up additional rules like “No running!” for the first bird who’s excited to reach the tree.
There’s “No yelling” for the second bird who wants to sing as it climbs.
“No fluffing of feathers!” and hair that can’t go above a certain height line.
More and more and more rules, including “No nesting!” and “No pooping on the ground!!!!!” Kids will love that one!
Until the limit is reached and the rulemaker bird says “No more birds allowed!”
At this point, signs litter the ground below the tree, showing additional arbitrary rules and a birda-potty. Birds are turned away because there is no more room.
The rulemaker bird heads off to eat lunch, yelling “And quit your crackling!”
We then turn our attention to the facing page, and spy one special bird with an egg on its head. (Here’s a close-up.)
We know exactly where to look among all 100 birds, because this special one has different eyes, looking upward toward its hair nest. The eyes are the only crescents of white on a full color page. The rulemaker bird is referring to that egg…and I wonder, Is it crackling?
While the rulemaker bird is eating his acorn lunch in the V.I.B. section, LOL, that egg gets busy. Here is where I will abandon the plot description, because what transpires in the remaining pages is too original to spoil. I want you all to read this book!
Suffice to say, I think Two Many Birds is about resource scarcity, and how the making of rules (a few well-intentioned, but many arbitrary and ridiculous) to protect scarce resources for use by the few is not the best answer to the problem of scarcity. One must step outside of the problem and realize that perhaps the answer is to increase the level of resources available to all, and then, perhaps many of those arbitrary rules will fall away.
The result? More birds will be happy.
But one could also say that this book is about the oppressed rising up against their oppressors. It’s about the miserable, negative mindset-of-deprivation of the oppressors. It’s about how life cannot be denied. How something as small as a germinating seed can change one’s outlook. And it’s about how the oppressor can leave that authoritarian cap (reminiscent of a police cap) behind and be reformed—for the most part—and replace it with a party hat, worn in a changed-for-the-better world.
Kudos to Cindy Derby for creating a fabulous, thought-provoking book that also serves as a beautiful work of art.
One more note: don’t forget to check under the dust jacket for even more bird goodness. So many small touches of perfection in this book, including the sign on the back cover: “No reading!”
Get out your art materials and create your own birds in Cindy Derby’s style. Here’s one of Cindy’s hand-painted creations that came with my early pre-order. Thank you, Cindy and Books Inc!
Make a list of rules that are important for all to follow. Make a list of rules that benefit only a certain group of people or animals, or a list that is completely silly. Discuss what makes a rule fair and important for all, and what makes a rule unfair or silly.
Pair this book with Noodlephant by Jacob Kramer, Illus. by K-Fai Steele.
Title: Two Many Birds
Author/Illustrator: Cindy Derby
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press, 2020
Age: Preschool – adult
Themes: rulemaking, fairness, authoritarianism, birds, trees
For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s blog.
18 thoughts on “Two Many Birds – Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF”
I’m going to find this amazing book. The creativity and messages are not to be missed.
Yes! Run don’t walk to your library or bookstore!
I saw images of this book recently and was intrigued. Now, even more so. Thank you for sharing. I can’t wait to get my hands of this book.
Yay! I think you’ll love it!
What a fabulous review! Wow this book hits so many important ideas and ones that aren’t usually in kids’ books. I can’t wait to see it!
And it does it in such a non-didactic way! It’s so so fabulous!
Wow, that was a magnificent review. I enjoyed every word and can’t wait to read the book. I noticed that in the background there aren’t any other trees.
I think you’re on to something, Patricia. Better find a copy quick!
This is a terrific review, Jilanne. I cannot wait to receive my copy. So clever and creative. I know I am going to love it.
Yay! It’s stunning!
Thanks for a terrific peek- the book, and her art, are brilliant! I can’t wait to get it. Meanwhile, I think Cindy’s fun launch party reading can still be found on YouTube.
Yes! Here it is!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajJH11dWSPg&list=UUOdliW2P0HyrEsNwXYZCrwg&index=1
Oh Jilanne, I can’t wait to see if my library has or is getting this book! I love your activities and your review. Definitely thought- provoking. Thanks!
Find it! You must! And I say that because I think you’ll be missing out, otherwise. 😄
So much going on in this, I think it’s perfect for adults, never mind the kids! I love the bird with a top hat and monocle. Very classy.
Yes, the more time you spend looking at the illustrations, the more interesting (and funny/quirky) things you find.
I ordered a copy for one of my nephews for Xmas…but I’m almost tempted to keep it for myself! 😀 Thank you for introducing me to yet another wonderful picture book. I literally use your blog as a gift guide.
Yippee!!! This makes me sooo happy! Thank you for buying books as gifts (and I highly recommend you get a copy for yourself). Cindy’s art in this book is both inspired and funny. You can find more of her work from this book and others on her website: https://www.cindyderby.com/. There’s an amazing spread that I will not reveal because it’s such a lovely surprise in this book.