“Are You a Bird Like Me?” is a delightful children’s book aimed for pre-K to grade 2. By Noel Foy and Nicholas Roberto, with fabulously appealing illustrations by Colleen Sgroi, this book is about family — those related by blood and the dear friends we pick up along the way.
In this case, our protagonist is an adorable baby bird named Sky who, right up front, is born to parents that make her feel safe and loved. In a quite humorous page, Sky tumbles out of her nest while her parents are away foraging worms. Try as she might, she can’t get back up. Quite smartly, Sky realizes that she needs help. Sky asks each creature she meets on her journey, “Are you a bird like me?” While none are, each time Sky is impressed by their individual traits and talents.
The first friend she makes is a squirrel aptly named Nutso, who “did a little dance and wagged his bushy tail, which Sky thought was very neat.” He can’t help her, so together they set off in search of a new friend who is an expert flier. The pair meet Mona, a beautiful butterfly who, despite her impressive flying, isn’t strong enough to lift Sky. But Mona introduces the pair to her friend Stretch, a giraffe who is exceptionally tall, and confident he can get Sky back into her nest.
The tale goes on, and as they travel, Sky marvels at how big the world is. She shares that she thought “my nest was the whole entire world.” To which Mona says, “The world is as big as you make it … and the higher you fly, the more you can see.”
In the end, it takes all of Sky’s friends to give her the needed push — and a little extra effort and courage on Sky’s part — to return to her nest. When Sky’s parents return and she introduces them to her friends, her father says, “But Sky, these animals … they’re not birds like us.” Sky’s reply is a delight, but you will have to read the book to see for yourself.
In an interview, Foy said she felt compelled to write a story about the amazing things that can happen when we work together and lift others up, even if they’re not “just like us.” She points out, “Our humanity to each other plays a huge role in determining our future. This inspired us to focus on the power of characters who are kind, supportive, and respectful to each other, and demonstrate teamwork, courage, connection, and community. I feel this is particularly important in a culture of division, contempt, degrading, and name-calling. We observe these behaviors every day, even from top leaders, and it makes me wonder how calling someone a loser or moron is going to change things for the better. The world needs more hope, and folks like this team of characters.”
Foy wanted her book “to send the message about differences not being dividers, but contributors to a common goal. When it comes to solving a problem, we must believe in ourselves and do our individual part, yet we can’t always do everything alone. We benefit from the kindness and unique talents and skills of others — we all bring something to the table.”
Like the theme of the book, the way it came together was a collaborative effort. Foy, who felt Roberto had helped improve the writing of her previous book “ABC Worry Free,” told him about her idea for this story. “Nicholas can take a sentence I write and make it so much better!” she says. “He also adds a witty and playful touch that I very much appreciate. He liked the concept, and this led to a lot of collaborative thinking and planning. Nicholas was in the driver’s seat with the writing. We’d then meet via Zoom to make edits and revisions.”
They asked for feedback from parents and teachers, and made revisions. It was a collective effort as well in working with Sgroi.
“She was a joy to collaborate with, and was able to bring our vision to life with her beautiful, engaging, and detailed watercolor illustrations,” Foy said. “There were times we pushed and challenged each other — we feel the book came out better because of those times. In many ways, I feel we lived several of the book’s themes: teamwork, cooperation, perseverance, facing fears, and being open to new perspectives.”
“Are You a Bird Like Me?” accomplishes what Foy hoped for, that “sometimes we need others to take us under their wings so we can spread our own. It’s impressive what we can accomplish alone … it’s even more impressive what we can accomplish when we work together.”
“Are You a Bird Like Me?” by Noel Foy and Nicholas Roberto, illustrations by Colleen Sgroi, $14.99. Available online, and at Edgartown Books.
Noel Foy will present the workshop “The Impact of Stress on Writing and What You Can Do About It” at Islanders Write on Sunday, July 31, from 3 to 3:45 pm, at Featherstone Center for the Arts.