“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Crow • Picture book

written and illustrated by Leo Timmers
September 2010 Clavis Books Ages 3-5
Be yourself! A tragicomic story about four birds under high voltage.
Story: Crow is black.  Pitch-black.  Everyone is afraid of him.  So Crow devises a plan to fit in by painting his feathers multicolored in order to look more like the other birds, but the plan backfires and he ends up scaring everyone away. This beautifully illustrated tale shows young children the importance of acceptance and “not to judge a book by its cover.”
Story behind the story:  Author-illustrator Leo Timmers lives in Belgium and is the recipient of the Book Feather Award as well as three-time winner of the Children’s and Youth Jury Award.  His Deep Sea Doctor Dean has been translated into twelve languages; other titles include Brum!, I Am the King, and Vroom! Leo’s style is immediately recognizable by its clear shapes, color and humor.  All of his illustrations are painted by hand in acrylic paint.

“Thoughtful…Timmers tells this be-yourself story with disciplined visual clarity…polish and style.”  – Publishers Weekly, boxed review

I found a video of Leo Timmers and, though it's in Dutch, it's fun to take a peek nonetheless as you can get a sense of his studio and style. This video below, though, is wordless, and a wonderful trip through the artist's sketchbook.  You'll see some pencil sketches of CROW, too:

Publisher Clavis Books believes in "raising readers by publishing books for children of all ages that stimulate their imaginations"; take a peek at their latest catalog to see more books by Leo Timmers and the rest of their publishing line-up.

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say.


Mrs. Horne said...

I LOVE this book. Why? Because it is different, in such a good way. Upon opening it, I immediately opened it and read it aloud and it caught my attention.

I love the message too - about not judging someone by their "outside." We have our first classroom bullying meeting tomorrow and I plan to use this book as my opened.

Wonderful job! 5/5

Lindsay Horne
New Kent Middle School
New Kent, VA

M. Battista said...

I loved the striking and vibrant artwork, but was disappointed with the story. I expected the smaller birds to see the error of their ways and realize that the crow wasn't scary after all. Instead they embraced him only because they thought he scared away a hideous chickadee, a scary parakeet and a creepy finch. So I guess the moral of the story is that we should all have a menacing looking friend to protect us from all of the other bullies in the world. This book had a lot of potential. Unfortunately it didn't deliver.

Picnic Rating: 2

Denair Elementary School Library
Denair, CA

Sam said...

I have mixed feelings about this book.

On the one hand, the art on each page is entirely charming. The pictures are delightful, full of personality, and just the right amount of color and humor to make this book eye-catching on any shelf. I found the look and design of this book completely entertaining.

It is the story that bothers me a little bit.

Crow is different. The other birds in this story are small and colorful. Crow is large and black; because Crow looks different the other birds are scared of him. As an adult reading this story and imagining how I might present this book to a story time group I wanted to see the small, colorful birds end up accepting Crow for his uniqueness. Instead, he tries so hard to fit in with them that he terrifies them and they accept him merely because he’s less scary than the various looks he took on trying to fit in with the group.

In the end, this is an amusing, very well illustrated story, with a message that slightly misses that mark.

Samantha Maskell
Rockingham Free Public Library
Bellows Falls, VT

PLLoggerR said...

Crow, written and illustrated by Leo timmers, is a beautiful picture book with a story worth talking about. The pictures draw the reader in, not because of their complexity, but because of their simplicity. The story, while about wanting to be accepted, misses the mark. However, I see this as a useful book that will help open up discussions on diversity, masks we wear, and how and why we choose friends. For this reason, I think the story will actually work best with elementary school students, not preschoolers.

Picnic Basket rating - 4

Becky Jensen
Peacham Library

loonyhiker said...

I loved this book because of the illustrations and the story. The story is not the way things should be but rather realistic on the way things really are in life. The illustrations were fun to look at, colorful, and very appealing. I think this book could be better used for upper elementary school to high school students. Of course at a young age, this could be used for reading. But many people think that high school age students couldn’t benefit from young children’s books but I think the lessons learned could be very effective at this older age also. Topics for discussion using this book can be cultural diversity, new students, being different, peer pressure, perceptions, and social skills. A discussion on how people do things to fit in and how others accept them would be a great discussion starter. During this week, I have seen many things in the news that could be connected to this theme. I’m really glad I had a chance to read this!

Lisa said...

This book hints at a powerful message, but does so in a simplified way. To bring out the message of the book, adults will have to have conversations with children to help them see the importance of not judging someone by their appearance. The lesson will not be obvious to children, but with assistance they might be able to learn from the text. The book is written in a way that would be entertaining to young children. The illustrations and the use of color is wonderful. I would rate the book a 3 out of 5.

Julia Pitau said...

Wow! What a simple yet incredible book. One of the first things I was impressed with were the simple, hand-painted, acrylic, vibrant, pictures which contained no background. I enjoyed the simple story about a bird trying to "fit-in" as I am sure most readers will be able to relate to.

Picnic Rating: 5+/5

Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

kidstuff said...

Wonderful illustrations always pique my curiosity for what lies inside a picture book. The vibrant pictures in Leo Timmers' book "Crow" really caught my eye.

However, I was disappointed by the perhaps too literal English translation of the Dutch text. The flow of the book was marred by this awkward translation. Too bad publishers don't work more closely with authors to tweak English translations.

I would have preferred a wordless picture book or perhaps one sentence per page.

Picnic Basket rating: 2 - not an essential library purchase.

Barbara Huff
Youth Services Librarian
Farmington NM Public Library

Anonymous said...

The illustrations were just darling, but the story is somewhat stilted and lacking (it probably stems from the translation).


Heather Hart
Newport Beach Public Library

Susan Appleton said...

This is such a cute children's book that the publisher sent for me to read and review for them. I love the white back ground that make the illustrations seem so bold! I love the colors in the illustrations and the facial expressions of the birds! It is so much fun to read and I loved reading it over and over with my 16 month old daughter, Rebekah! She LOVES the book! It is a sweet story of a black crow who tries to be something he is not, and finds in the end that being yourself is the best choice! What a life lesson for us all! One of my favorite children's books now! Definitely a 5 out of 5!

Carol said...

The vibrant graphics and use of white space is stunning and interesting. The hand painted in acrylic illustrations are coherent and crisp. For teaching focuses, the first things I think about is setting, main characters and supporting characters. The organization of the book lends itself to a conversation about the elements a story can offer, as a problem is introduced and a solution or resolution of some kind occurs at the end. As far as the moral message of the story goes, I think it takes a detour on the simple message of, you can't judge a book by its cover, and heads towards this idea, that it is easy to fear the unknown, but what does it take to make the unknown, known? I will be buying this book for the school library. I also happen to love crows and believe in their intelligence, so the cover had me right from the start! It would be interesting to compare Timmers' Crow with Ashley Bryan's, Beautiful Blackbird with an older audience, and see what conversations occurred in regards to race, acceptance, and individuality.

K-8 Librarian & Literacy Specialist

janew said...

Gosh. I love the illustrations. The humorous depiction of the characters brings to life they personalities and emotions. But I was jarred by the text. Black is scary, untrustworthy, mean,and dark. For me it equates black with negative traits and I am sensitive to the message that may send to children. Maybe in Belgium and Holland this would not be an issue but within the US,the tensions are real. I think I may explore the book with older students with a focus upon critical literacy issues. 2

janew said...

Gosh. I love the illustrations. The humorous depiction of the characters brings to life they personalities and emotions. But I was jarred by the text. Black is scary, untrustworthy, mean,and dark. For me it equates black with negative traits and I am sensitive to the message that may send to children. Maybe in Belgium and Holland this would not be an issue but within the US,the tensions are real. I think I may explore the book with older students with a focus upon critical literacy issues. 2

B. Duggan said...

I agree with the comments of others, the illustrations are vibrant and full of personality, but the equating of black = bad is a mixed message. I use many picture books with my middle school students and tried this one today to gauge their impressions.

As I read it aloud, the translated phrasing seemed awkward. When I asked for a "deeper" level storyline, it was a bit forced.

This could have worked, but didn't.

Rating: 2/5

Linda said...

I fell in love with the book right from the start. The cover had me enthralled.What a great way to teach prediction-for all ages.I love the message, teaching students not to judge someone by their "outside", but also to accept yourself for who you are. I can't wait to read it at Morning Meeting. Great book for Responsive Classroom teachers.

Tina's Blog said...

I love the Picnic Basket and being able to review books that I receive from them. Last week Crow by Leo Timmers arrived in my mail box - a cute picture book about a crow that scares all the other birds because of his appearance. Trying to fit in, Crow turns himself into a finch. When that doesn't work he turns himself into a parakeet. And then a chickadee. Of course, Crow does best when he is himself, a fact he eventually realizes.

This is a nice little story about liking yourself for who you are. I loved the illustrations set on a white background, making them a bit more dramatic. Teachers and parents will enjoy the lesson this book teaches, and young readers will understand the lesson while enjoying the story.

Crow reminds me a lot of Sylvie by Jennifer Gordon Sattler, another book about loving yourself for who you are.

4/5 stars

Heather Hill said...

"Crow" has beautiful illustrations that draw readers in. The story could have been a bit more developed or translated better, but the main message was a good one -- Don't judge a person by the way they look. It kind of bothered me though that Crow never told the others that he was the scary birds trying to fit in with them. Crow changing himself to fit in wasn't something my 5 yr. old quite understood. I would maybe try it with an older classroom (3rd or 4th) to see what kind of discussions it provoked. I wanted to love this book, but felt a bit let down. I give it a 3 out of 5.

Heather Hill, Reading Specialist
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA

Angela said...

Crow is a fantastic book! Obviously, the book's message is powerful, simply conveyed to young readers in a way that is relatable and makes sense. I love the unique setting, so focused in on a telephone wire. The lack of background details in the illustrations helps to make the point even more clear, through the use of striking colors on the birds. There is a lot you could teach a young writer with this book as a model. I love the intriguing lead that beckons you to ask questions. The word choice was perfect - some of my favorites are: jolly, burly, and an unusual use of the word glittered. The sentence fluency is an excellent model for balancing short with long. The structure of sentences such as, "With his friendliest smile, Crow tiptoed towards them" would be great for a lesson on rearranging the order of phrases to make the sentences flow. I rate this one a 5 out of 5 and plan on using it over and over in my classroom!

Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings about this book. At first glance, I love the striking illustrations. Then, I began having the same reservations as did reviewer "M. Battista." I don't like the fact that the little birds only like Crow in the end based upon a false impression of him which he is not planning to correct any time soon.

I have to wonder if perhaps the pure essense of the story did not get lost/changed in translation.

Anja, MLS/EdD
Magnolia Park Elementary
Ocean Springs, MS