For Young Readers

'Flora's Very Windy Day,' a new children's book by Jeanne Birdsall

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


By Jeanne Birdsall

Illustrated by Matt Phelan. Clarion, $16. Ages 5-8

Just in time for fall and windy weather comes this cautionary confection about sibling rivalry . . . or is it sibling affection? It is a truth universally acknowledged that little brothers and paint do not mix, and when they do, weary mothers inevitably send them outdoors with big sisters in charge. Such is Flora's unhappy fate. "I can't go outside," she protests. "The wind is very strong and will blow me away."

"Nonsense," responds her no-nonsense mother.

Secretly, however, Flora -- snug and smug in her "super-special heavy-duty red boots" -- is confident that she'll remain grounded even as she gleefully points out to the wind that little Crispin is wearing only his "regular old purple boots." Up and away goes Crispin, and a suddenly stricken Flora follows. A series of would-be Crispin-adopters fly by: a dragonfly, a passing sparrow, a rainbow, a cloud, an eagle with a hungry eye and, eventually, the moon. Flora finds a reason to reject each overture. "He's my brother and I'm taking him home." And each rejection is met with the same ominous refrain: "If the wind lets you." Matt Phelan's lighter-than-air vignettes seem to float between earth and sky, capturing the emotional dynamics of the story, from silly to scary to sad, and from hostile to hilarious to happy. It's a rare marriage of words and pictures that ends, as all good stories should, with chocolate chip cookies and a hug.

-- Kristi Jemtegaard

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