When Grandfather Flew
Patricia MacLachlan, Author
Chris Sheban, Illustrator
Neal Porter Books, Fiction, Jul. 27, 2021
Suitable for ages: 4-8
Themes: Bird watching, Grandfathers, Nature, Grief
Opening: “When we were younger — before his hair turned white and when he could still see — my older brother, Aidan, and I called him “birdman.”
Grandfather loves birds and spending time with his youngest grandson, Milo. Together they marvel over the brisk wing beat of the sharp-shinned hawk, the hovering kestrel, and Grandfather’s favorite, the soaring bald eagle. But in time Grandfather’s eyes grow dim, and he needs to rely on his sharp ears and the eyes of others to help him identify the cedar waxwing, the bluebird, and the junco. But one day when Milos comes home from school, his grandfather isn’t there.
Why I like this book:
When Grandfather Flew is such a loving tribute to a grandfather, who shared his passion of bird watching and nature with his grandchildren, Aiden, Emma and Milo. Patricia MacLachlan’s text is poetic and fills readers with many joyful moments. The moments become memories that deliver a beautiful response at the end.
This is heartwarming tale is narrated by Emma. Milo, is the youngest, and he carefully listens to everything his grandfather teaches them about birds, their beaks, wings, and their songs. They quietly step into nature and enjoy their time together outdoors observing the birds on the farm. Grandfather’s favorite bird is the high-soaring bald eagle. “Look up,” he’d say to Milo. “The eagle sees the full sky, he sees the world.”
Chris Sheban’s soft watercolor and pastel illustrations make this book breathtaking celebration of life. Make sure you check out the endpapers with the gorgeous drawings of a variety of birds. When Grandfather Flew may be a gentle and reassuring story for children who’ve lost a close family member. It is an inspiring story that focuses on so many beautiful memories. I plan to give this book to great grandchildren.
This book is also a timely book to introduce children to bird counting and conservation. The 122nd annul Christmas Bird Count is inspired by a national citizen science project in which everyone can participate. This year it runs from Dec. 14 until Jan. 5, 2022. Many hold special Christmas bird counts for kids. And there is a Great Backyard Bird Count a February 18-21, 2022 and many other counts throughout the years.
Resources: Take children bird watching. Sometimes you only need to look in your own backyard. Ask them what’s their favorite bird. Have them draw a picture. They can check out the endpapers to see Sheban’s pencil drawings. Remember to introduce your kids to the annual Christmas Bird Count and The Great Backyard Bird Count. Visit the Audubon website for a list of count circles near you. And visit the Sonoma Birding website and the eBird website to do you own bird count any day of the year and track your counts.
Patricia MacLachlan is the author of many novels for children, including the Newbery Medal-winning Sarah, Plain and Tall; Baby; Waiting for Magic; and The Truth of Me. Among her picture books are Snowflakes Fall, The Iridescence of Birds, Someone Like Me, and What You Know First. She lives in Western Massachusetts.
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.