A few weeks before Christmas, Rowan had a fall off some play equipment and fractured his arm. He was a trooper, but it was a challenge. He hated the X-ray machine and for the first couple of days he kept asking me to take the plaster off.
A book caught my eye at that time, Bob Graham’s How To Heal a Broken Wing. It wasn’t an obvious book on the theme of hospitals and doctors, but I’m really glad that I picked it up, and it has become one of my favourite Bob Graham books.
The story begins with a bird which hits the glass of a tall city building and falls to the ground, lost amongst the rushing feet of the grey city street.
“No one saw the bird fall.
No one looked.
Little Will, bright in his red jacket, sees the bird and convinces his mother to help him take the bird home. And along with his dad, this little family help to heal the bird’s broken wing.
This is a book of spare words, where the illustrations fill in gaps and allow room for complex interpretation – if you want to. Graham’s illustrative style in this book is like a graphic novel, and it feels quite filmic. He alternates between large double-spreads and frames of different shapes and sizes. Colour is used to great effect: in the city street scenes, Will is `spotlit’ in colour against the background of greys and browns.
The book speaks of empathy and compassion, and these are concepts that can be grasped by even a small child. Older kids and adults will perceive a lot more: the isolation of life in a big city, the importance of freedom and letting go, and life in a time of conflict.
One night when we were babysitting recently, we read this book to three spellbound two-and-a-half-year-olds. Through their faces and spoken reactions, you could tell they were taken with the story of the bird, and really felt a strong empathy with it and Will.
And Rowan’s broken wing is also healed; plaster removal was soon forgotten following the issue of a hospital lollypop.