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:
2017 Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children’s Literature winner
2017 Middle East Book Award: Picture Book category honourable mention
2017 Cybils Award: Fiction Picture Book nominee
2017 New York Public Library’s Best Books for Kids & Teens selection
2017 One Book for Kids, One San Diego selection
2017 NECBA Windows & Mirrors fall selection
2017 Junior Library Guild selection
School Library Journal blogger Elizabeth Bird’s “2017 Picture Books I Am Really Looking Forward To” selection

Reviews:
“If you’ve been wondering how to present the refugee crisis to children without losing faith in humanity, take a look at this graceful, even uplifting book.”—The New York Times “Bookshelf: Friendships and Fables Soar in New Children’s Books”

“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

“[T]his story draws attention to an important world issue without subjecting young readers to its harshest realities.”Booklist

“Exquisite dimensional illustrations using…polymer clay, and other media bring a unique, lifelike quality to the page, enriching Sami’s story to its fullest potential when paired with the often lyrical prose. VERDICT A stunning offering for libraries wishing to add to their collection of hopeful yet realistic refugee tales.”—School Library Journal

“Intricately detailed and lifelike, the polymer clay and mixed-media illustrations combine with the understated first-person narrative to communicate Sami’s circumstances, heartbreak, and healing process. Through this emotionally accessible story, inspired by an article about a real boy who fled to Jordan’s Za’atari camp, readers begin to understand Sami’s plight, and to gain awareness and insight into the lives of the many children facing calamity across the globe.”—School Library Journal “Reading Around The World | Picture Books”

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

“Illustrations in polymer clay and acrylic paint show Sami’s slow transition into in his new life. The author’s note provides context about the Syrian war and information about the refugee camps.”—ILA Literacy Daily, “Stories of Young Immigrants and Refugees”

“While there is a contrast in the book’s beauty and the grim situation of these families, the story realistically portrays the boy’s struggle with his loss and offers many points of connection and discussion for young readers….Art is a key element in the telling of this story…This rich illustrative setting contextualizes the role of art in the story as a means of disclosing the inward struggles of the child…”—Worlds of Words

“With its elegant prose and beautiful clay illustrations, this book tells a timely story through the voice of a Syrian refugee….My Beautiful Birds is a very well-executed book that provides a window into the life of a refugee while also being a pleasure to read.”—Resource Links

Suzanne Del Rizzo weaves the story together beautifully with the help of her own illustrations…They are extremely captivating and add even more depth to the already engaging story that accompanies them. In addition to all of its many amazing aspects, My Beautiful Birds is a stunning tool to teach children about what goes on in the world outside their own backyards.”—Canadian Children’s BookNews

“A gentle yet moving story of refugees of the Syrian civil war, My Beautiful Birds illuminates the ongoing crisis as it affects its children.”—49th Shelf

“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

“It’s unusual to find stories about the Syrian civil war geared to picture book readers; but young audiences with adult assistance will find this an excellent introduction of the experience of refugees through the eyes of a young boy who dreams for something better.”—Midwest 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

My Beautiful Birds…sheds a light on the ongoing Syrian Refugee crisis and its effects on its children….[It] shows the reality of refugee camps and ultimately provides hope for people in search of a new place in life….As beautiful as the story is, the illustrations are even more so. Del Rizzo creates her illustrations from acrylic paint and polymer clay, so the texture is out of this world. With each page flip it feels like we can reach out and touch the illustrations….I would love to talk about each and every spread but this is a book worth seeing for yourself.”—Let’s Talk Picture Books

“Beautifully written, and illustrated using polymer clay and acrylic, this picture book serves as a tribute to all those families who have had to venture out into the unknown when their homes have been taken from them.”—Through the Looking Glass

“Del Rizzo’s exquisite polymer clay illustrations add depth and a life-like dimension to Sami’s story….I appreciated that the author focused on the refugee crisis that is affecting the most innocent and vulnerable, children. She doesn’t address political themes in the book, but focuses on the humanity of the situation for children displaced from their homes in Syria….My Beautiful Birds is an excellent addition to any school library. It is age-appropriate and an introductory story about children who are displaced because of war or natural disasters.”—Children’s Books Heal

“[M]y favorite thing about this book though are the gorgeous illustrations. Using…polymer clay, and other mixed media Del Rizzo has created illustrations that really pop out at you. The story itself really touched my heart…here we have a young boy who has lost his home, his pets, pretty much his whole world, and he grieves the loss, but…he finds a reason to rejoice despite his humble circumstances.”—Geo Librarian

“Rich, textured illustrations fashioned from Plasticine, polymer clay, and other mixed media complement this moving story of one young refugee’s experience in the Syrian civil war.”—Omnilibros

“This is a gorgeous book that had me in tears…VERDICT: This is a must for all public and school libraries. The refugee situation will only get worse with time, and we need to educate ourselves and our kids about it.”—Oregon Coast Youth Book Program

“A personal story about a contemporary crisis that gives readers a child narrator they can relate to. The illustrations, created from polymer clay, are unique and eye-catching. This would make a great introduction to a discussion of Syria and refugees.”—A Kids Book A Day

“[A] beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated book…Del Rizzo’s illustrations are the perfect compliments to the story. While they are detailed enough to convey emotion well, because they appear as theatrical vignettes, they provide some distance for the reader from a story which tackles a difficult subject.”—Wander, Ponder, Write

“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

“My son and I both loved this story and the dimensional illustrations that the author created through Plasticine, polymer clay and other mixed media….Every page was a delight to explore. Truly a work of art….Although this is a story about war, it is hopeful and uplifting. It helps young ones to understand what is happening in our world and how we all have the same needs.”—Laura Fabiani & Son, Library of Clean Reads

“This talented Canadian author has produced a sensitive, moving account of what life is like in traumatic, emotionally-wrenching events experienced by so many people. I highly recommend My Beautiful Birds.”—Sandra Olshaski, Library of Clean Reads

“Books like this are needed to help our students and children begin to understand the plight of refugees around the world. Heartfelt and timely, this book deserves to be shared.”—Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“This is such a beautifully illustrated book with such a heartwarming story….Stories like these remind me how blessed I am that my children have food, clothing and shelter and don’t have to worry about adult responsibilities at such young ages.”—All Booked Up Now

“The way language is used in the book is beautifully poetic, and even soothing….[It] will get your child hooked on reading, as they realize that a vivid image can be painted in their head from just a simple line or paragraph. The child won’t be able to wait until the next plot advancement or change in scenery.”—Getting Kids Reading

“Based on the experiences of a young boy in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, this glimpse of the overarching as well as deeply personal, individual losses for refugee children is poignant but not too heavy. Colorful, clay-sculpted illustrations create friendly, engaging visuals as well.”—Orange Marmalade