My Beautiful Birds

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My Beautiful Birds

By Suzanne Del Rizzo
Illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo
Picture Book Ages 6+
ISBN: 978-1-77278-010-9
List Price: $19.95 CAD / $17.95 USD
Hardcover with dust jacket & reinforced trade binding
Trim Size: 20.32 x 25.4 cm / 8 x 10 inches
Pages: 32

Canadian Publication Date: March 1, 2017
U.S. Publication Date: March 8, 2017

Distributed in the U.S. by Ingram Publisher Services

A moving story about one boy’s refugee experience in the Syrian Civil War and the birds who help him on the road to emotional healing

Behind Sami, the Syrian skyline is full of smoke. The boy follows his family and all his neighbours in a long line, as they trudge through the sands and hills to escape the bombs that have destroyed their homes. But all Sami can think of is his pet pigeons—will they escape too? When they reach a refugee camp and are safe at last, everyone settles into the tent city. But though the children start to play and go to school again, Sami can’t join in. When he is given paper and paint, all he can do is smear his painting with black. He can’t forget his birds and what his family has left behind.

One day a canary, a dove, and a rose finch fly into the camp. They flutter around Sami and settle on his outstretched arms. For Sami it is one step in a long healing process at last.

A gentle yet moving story of refugees of the Syrian civil war, My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo illuminates the ongoing crisis as it affects its children. It shows the reality of the refugee camps, where people attempt to pick up their lives and carry on. And it reveals the hope of generations of people as they struggle to redefine home.

Awards and Honours:
School Library Journal blogger Elizabeth Bird’s “2017 Picture Books I Am Really Looking Forward To” selection

Reviews:
“Del Rizzo…wisely focuses on what Sami sees and feels without trying to explain too much of the context, relying instead on her visuals to provide this information….These skillful and imaginative illustrations—created with Plasticine, polymer clay, and other media—give a sense of dimension, which is enhanced by striking and unusual perspectives. My Beautiful Birds is a lovely, timely book.”Quill & Quire **Starred Review**

“Del Rizzo uses polymer clay and acrylic paint to create vibrant pictures of Sami, his family, the refugee camp, and the swirling pink-and-purple sky. Most of all, she creates birds for which every feather and color looks real. Beauty and sorrow sit side by side in this compassionate and age-appropriate depiction of contemporary refugee life.”—The Horn Book Magazine

Del Rizzo uses her considerable talent with paint, Plasticine, and polymer clay to create the colorful, highly textured illustrations for this book, which she conceived while searching for a way to explain the Syrian civil war to her young children. Based on a real refugee child who keeps birds, this story isn’t about war but its effect on those who experience it and survive. This story of one frightened little boy who finds strength in caring for animals and uses that strength to comfort other kids is an excellent means of explaining a difficult subject to young children.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Suzanne Del Rizzo’s incredible attention to each detail in the story line, dialogue and exceptionally detailed polymer clay and acrylic art work of the landscape and living conditions, beautifully combines to allow the reader to absorb the profound emotional loss that Sami has experienced and continues daily….I appreciated that the book did not explain, blame or discuss any political themes, leaving these questions outside Sami’s innocent mind, allowing him to focus on reality, humanity and survival. I hope this book inspires others to realize the daily plight of refugees.”—Youth Services Book Review

“Rendered in bright and textured polymer clay and acrylic, [My Beautiful Birds] is the story of a boy named Sami, leaving his Syrian home (with a sky full of smoke) to escape war….Del Rizzo writes in an arresting first-person, present-tense voice, the story coming straight from the boy’s point of view and giving us a glimpse into his inner turmoil.”—Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

“In My Beautiful Birds, author-illustrator Suzanne Del Rizzo offers a poignant story of a Syrian child refugee traumatized by leaving his cherished pigeons behind. It is a tale of sorrow and suffering and promise, and beautifully rendered in Suzanne Del Rizzo’s distinctive art….My Beautiful Birds provides a promise that all the darkness from that Syrian skyline of smoke is behind Sami and remains open to a bright sky of birds and lightness, the landscape of his future.”—CanLit for LittleCanadians

“[My Beautiful Birds] is enlivened by Del Rizzo’s plasticine illustrations with their rich purple and golden hues. Of all the things that Sami has left behind, it’s his pigeons he misses the most, the birds he fed and kept and as pets….Where he finds solace, though, is in the sky, one thing that is familiar to him, ‘wait[ing] like a loyal friend for me to remember.’ In the clouds, he sees the shapes of his birds: ‘Spiralling. Soaring. Sharing the sky.’”—Pickle Me This