April 2, 2012
In My Nest
By Sara Gillingham
Illustrated by Lorena Siminovich
0-3 Chronicle Books 12 pp.
978-0811865555 Board Book $8.99
Fiction / Concept Book
With In My Nest, Sara Gillingham takes a classic conceit - the finger puppet book - and renders it surprisingly fresh. The simple story begins on the cover, with the finger puppet blue bird nestled inside it's multilayered, die-cut nest. Upon opening the cover, we see that there are layers of sticks and "curly twigs" in the nest, which the little bird tells us in the first-person text. The next page turn brings us closer to the bird, now sitting in a layer of "soft, warm feathers," while on the next page shows the little bird sitting amid a layer of green leaves and mud "to help stick things together". With all the layers thus examined, the focus widens. On the next page we see the whole nest tucked into the branches of a tree with the little bird inside ("and there is me! I am cozy in my nest...") Finally, we turn the page and see the little bird snuggled into his nest with his family.
Siminovich's illustrations give the book a naive, collage effect, one that emphasizes the organic feeling of the die-cut openings that the little bird passes through with each page turn. Leaves, caterpillars, twigs and feathers occupy each page in softly gradated shades of brown and green so that the little blue puppet integrates with each picture even as it naturally stands out. The puppet itself has a quilted, folk art quality that adds to the book's coziness, while the entire thing - puppet included - is constructed with little ones in mind. The heavy cardboard pages are obviously meant to stand up to a great deal of chewing, gumming and thumping, while no amount of pulling can dislodge the little bird from its nest.
In My Nest is a lovely little book that will fascinate babies and toddlers and even appeal to very young preschoolers who can read the words and manipulate the puppet themselves. Themes of home, family and nature overlay the simple story, while straightforward facts about what literally goes into making a nest give the little bird its charming, informational context. A great edition to Gillingham's series, which includes In My Pond and In My Tree, In My Nest balances aesthetics, story-telling and information-giving with visual elegance and a spare text, making it a pleasure both for kids, and the parents that will read it to them.