Eliza and her mother live very near the sea, and one day she finds a stone on the beach. It fits into her hand perfectly, and she knows it is an egg. Her mother says it’s too heavy to be an egg, but Eliza says ‘Well, then, it’s a heavy egg’, and she puts it under her pillow. At bedtime it gets warm next to her face, so she puts it on the bedside table, and in the morning there is a stone bird, with a beak and knowing eyes. Time passes, and in the winter another little stone appears next to the bird. A bird and its egg have to be kept warm until the spring, and she makes them a nest out of her socks. In the spring, there is indeed another bird, very tiny, and in the warmer weather, with the window open, the birds disappear, until her birthday morning, when they appear on the shed roof. They take flight, but leave her a grey feather.
Patrick Benson’s luminous illustrations of this simple story make this a delightful book. Eliza, and the mother who finally appreciates her child’s imagination and stops arguing, are well characterised, but the grandparents (this is evidently a single parent family) who come for Christmas are perhaps too conventionally ’old’ for a possible 5 or 6 year grandchild – Gran has thick and baggy grey tights, grey hair in a bun and a walking stick. The background details are interesting: there are lots of toys and ornaments around, and an actual recognisable book, My favourite Fairy Tales by Tony Ross lies on Eliza’s bedside table. One close-up of Eliza’s face filling a whole page as she gazes in wonder at her stone bird on the opposite page is particularly striking.
This is Jenny McCartney’s first book, and it is clear that the editorial staff at the excellent Andersen Press have faith in her- she is an author to watch out for.