In Coelho’s charming new illustrated novella for children, themes of empathy, love and grief are observed through the eyes of a young boy – Miles – and some unexpected friends.
Miles and Chris love climbing the trees in their estate, but the grumpy Mr Buxton is always telling them to clear off, as if they all belong to him! One day Miles finds an injured budgie and he can’t resist its beautiful, ‘a-kiss-on-the-eyelid-soft’, ‘crayon box’-coloured feathers. He smuggles it home and is amazed when his formidable mother agrees to let him keep it. After setting up its home in an old cage donated by a kindly neighbour, Miles names the bird Pippin.
Like all Little Gems publications, Miles’ adventure is vibrant, lively and short. It’s a simple tale but vivid descriptions of interesting characters provide depth and colour. Miles’ affectionate toddler sister (who is wiser than her years) provides especially heart-warming moments, and the return of Mr Buxton later in the story provides an emotional lesson about kindness and understanding others.
Coelho’s language is rich and generous. He also uses original, unorthodox figurative language that brilliantly captures the innocent, accepting way that children view the world, such as the way that Miles’ head ‘swirls with sadness’, or the bird’s tiny body feels like an ‘empty egg shell’. His words are accompanied by David Barrow’s stunning illustrations, whose soft edges and inky palette contribute to the book’s timeless, peaceful atmosphere.
Budgie is a wonderful bedtime story for parents and children to share and would also be a helpful and positive way to introduce important messages about loss and empathy.