Sunday 4 January 2015

Sylvia and Bird

Sylvia and Bird by Catherine Rayner (Little Tiger Press — Hardie Grant Egmont)
ISBN 978-1-84506-857-8
PB $14.95 RRP
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

This delightful picture book, written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner, is about a friendship between a dragon and a bird. Sylvia, a shimmer-shiny dragon who lives on a high mountain-top, is terribly lonely until she meets an unlikely playmate, a small yellow bird known as 'Bird'. Despite their obvious differences, the two have fun together and keep each another company. But while Bird is able to go off and play with other birds, Sylvia has no one else, as she is the last of her kind on earth. This makes Sylvia quite sad.

For anyone who knows about dragons (and there are a few out there) Syliva is not a hot, fire-breathing variety, but a cool, mountain one with beautiful ice crystals decorating her large body. The diminutive Bird is a complete contrast to her oversized friend. But the crux of the story is that none of this matters. When Sylvia tries to go to the moon to find other dragons, and she realises Bird can't go with her, she decides to stay on earth. There's no way she wants to leave her friend Bird behind. 

As in her book about a tiger, Augustus and his Smile, Catherine Rayner has presented a large scary creature in an non-threatening, affectionate way for small children. Sylvia's face shows a vulnerable, friendly expression and her actions through the story show her gentleness, particularly when she saves Bird from falling, when she flies too high.

 The concept of the story, that difference is no obstacle to true friendship, is certainly admirable and worth conveying to children as early as possible. Sylvia and Bird, which won the 2014 Greenway Medal in the UK,  is a lovely book for adults to read aloud and everyone can enjoy the superbly drawn illustrations. This book is suitable for preschool children and up into early primary. 


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