Friday, April 15, 2011

Bookworm Birdie

I'm currently working on a project about a rabbit who loves books. So when I found Calvin Can't Fly, The Story of a Bookworm Birdie in the bookstore, it peaked my interest. Don't you just love animals who can read?

"Calvin is a starling. He was born under the eaves of an older barn with his three brothers, four sisters, and sixty-seven thousand four hundred and thirty-two cousins. Starlings have BIG families." When Calvin tumbled out of the nest to discover the world with his siblings, instead of discovering worms or grass or dirt, Calvin discovered books!

The thing about starlings is that they really are very smart birds. In the 90's I volunteered for the local Wildlife Rescue organization and I raised infant and orphaned songbirds. Raising starlings was easy. They got the routine quickly, learned how to self-feed without much hassle, and were out the door and back into the wild lickity-split. A small nest of starlings was an easy "starter" nest for a beginning volunteer. They are quite gregarious and in the winter they come together into enormous flocks that fill the air like black clouds.

Written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Keith Bendis, this adorable tale is funny, endearing and celebrates a child's individuality. The illustrations are loose and whimsical. The book has a graphic feel with the black birds against a white background. There are hundreds of little black starlings illustrated on some of the pages. I can only imagine the fun Keith Bendis had with this project.

Bendis is probably a familiar name to you. His work has appeared in many magazines and newspapers, including the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Fortune, and Time. This is his first children's book. You can see more of his work here.

Keith Bendis' studio in Ancram with Author Jennifer Berne, right.
(David Lee/Hudson-Catskill Newspapers)

Berne and Bendis both live in Ancram, New York, and although they have been friends for years, this is their first collaboration. Bendis came up with the original idea for "Calvin" but wasn't quite sure what to do with him. Berne immediately saw the possibilities and wrote the story.

The book is painted in gouache and has a soft feeling to it. It is a departure from most of his work that is done in pen and ink. It took four years to make the book, from original idea to the first print run. The book was released in September of 2010. Bendis and Berne plan to collaorate on another book in the future. "Their collaboration is fairly unique, said Bendis, with a lot of back and forth between artist and writer."

"It's not the usual way they come about," he said.

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