Picture Book Review: A Garden to Save the Birds by Wendy McClure; illustrated by Beatriz Mayumi

Beautifully illustrated, the heartwarming story of A Garden to Save the Birds begins with the “BAP!” of a bird flying into a window. Young Callum and his sister Emmy run outside to see the bird flying away. At first, Callum and Emmy are confused: why did the bird fly into their window? Realizing the window’s reflection of the sky poses a danger to birds, they decide to do something about it.

What follows is an inspiring portrait of children as what psychologist Zoe Weil calls “the solutionary generation.” Out of Callum’s and Emmy’s concern for birds grows a community devoted to the environment and a world in which the future is something to be excited about.

After learning there aren’t as many birds as there used to be, Callum and his family research ways to make their neighborhood safer for birds. They put up window decals so birds can see the windows, leave dead flowers in the garden for birds to eat from, and plant bluebells to attract birds and insects. They even build a shelter to protect birds in the winter and keep lights off at night to help migrating birds find their way.

Callum and Emmy are happy watching birds enjoy the new garden, but their mom knows their home is only one piece of the puzzle. They talk to neighbors, asking them to consider keeping cats indoors and adding birdhouses to their yards, and soon the entire community is involved.

Beatriz Mayumi’s vibrant and playful illustrations celebrate the interconnectedness of the neighborhood’s people, animals, and land. The moon itself feels like a living character in the sky, and even the family’s dog happily joins them on their tasks. It is a world where all are welcome.

While Callum and Emmy are the drivers of the neighborhood’s environmental initiatives, their mom is an exemplary role model. When she admits she doesn’t know about the birds’ plight, she opens a meaningful space for the family to bond and learn together. And in talking with neighbors about helping the birds, she demonstrates the necessity of uncomfortable conversations in building a better world—an important takeaway for children and adults alike.

A Garden to Save the Birds is a delightful read that both entertains and inspires readers to take action. By the end of the story, it’s clear that an environment better for birds is an environment better for everyone.

“We’re growing back the world too,” Callum realizes. “A little bit, at least. Still, there’s more we can do.”

A Garden to Save the Birds comes out April 1, 2021.

Lillie Gardner
Lillie Gardner is a writer and pianist based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her work has been published in the Slag Review and the Long River Review, and is forthcoming in the Delmarva Review. A practicing vegan, Lillie is a volunteer with Compassionate Action for Animals in Minneapolis and co-chair of Twin Cities Veg Fest.
Lillie Gardner

@lilliegardner

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