Barnaby by Andrea Curtis & Kass Reich (Illustrator)

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. It was released April 15, 2021 by Owlkids Books.

Barnaby, a beautiful blue budgie, lives with a nice lady who feeds him "sunflower seeds and sweet mangos." He spends most of his time in a golden cage with activities there to entertain him. When the nice lady gets home, he is released from his cage to fly about the house. Barnaby enjoys his treats and "nuzzling his feathers against her neck."

Life seems sublime, but then the nice lady brings home a yellow budgie to be a friend for Barnaby. Barnaby is not impressed. He acts out and is punished. When he is next allowed out of his cage, Barnaby flies out the window.

Out in the wide world Barnaby ends up lost. Luckily he is befriended by a flock of birds who show him how to survive in the wild. He learns to be less self centered and begins to see beauty in the world around him. 

Still, he did not forget his kind lady and continued to search for his old home.

At first I saw Barnaby's reaction to the new budgie as something akin to the jealousy of an older sibling when a new baby enters the family. On the surface, it certainly seems like that. The behaviour parallels are genuine. Like in families, after a few initial issues, older children learn to love their baby siblings.

The thing is, I had a hard time with the fact that Barnaby was in a cage. I can't imagine keeping a dog or cat inside a cage while I am at work. Even the guinea pig we once owned had free range of our house. My discomfort lingered days after I finished reading this book. No matter how gilded it was, or how kind the lady was, it was still a cage. What if Barnaby wasn't so much upset at having a new sibling, as he was at having this new bird also kept in a cage? Barnaby's escape, and the help he had from a community of birds to live with that freedom, feels like an important message to me about how we humans can help each other get out of our own cages. 

I liked this book a lot. I like that it made me think much more than I expected it to. I like that Barnaby grew and developed to become a better 'person' through his adventures. I like that the ending leaves me wondering what Barnaby is planning. I like that I'm left with all kinds of questions about what home and freedom mean. 

I loved Kass Reich's artwork. It is serenely beautiful. I can imagine hanging a print or two on my walls. I searched the internet to find out more about her process. Here is what I learned: "She does a majority of her work by hand using acrylic and watercolour paint, adding further details in Photoshop. She makes a point to preserve all the charming imperfections that come with illustration done by hand. she works primarily with graphite, colored pencils and gouache." She states, "I use graphite for work in grayscale and gouache paint layered with colored pencil for my work in color. The more texture the better!"

I hope all readers find this picture book as fascinating as I did. I sure wish I had a group of students to read this with.  

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