One Dark Bird


From award-winning author Liz Garton Scanlon and celebrated artist Frann Preston-Gannon comes a gorgeously illustrated, lyrical counting book that will have young readers’ imaginations taking flight.

One dark bird is perched up high, with a view of the town and a taste of the sky. Then she’s joined by two more, then three, then four. Before long, there are hundreds of starlings dancing across the sky—and avoiding a hunting hawk with one of the most spectacular tricks in the animal kingdom. Then, when night comes, the starlings begin to depart, until finally there is just one dark bird perched way up high, with a view of the town and a taste of the sky.---from the publisher

40 pages                          978-1534404434                   Ages 3-7

Keywords:  bird, imagination, counting, math, math curriculum, 3 year old, 4 year old, 5 year old, 6 year old, 7 year old, poetry, murmuration, science, STEM, nature


“When you see me

Fly away without you

Shadow on the things you know

Feathers fall around you

And show you the way to go”

-- Neil Young, “Birds” (1970)


ONE DARK BIRD folds math, poetry and science into a stunningly beautiful picture book.


It’s a counting book, that counts up from one to ten and, later in the book, from ten back down to one:

“2 birds more

come winging by

then 3

then 4

flights multiply”


ONE DARK BIRD is a lyrical poem about the comings and goings of starlings. When read aloud, the rhythm of the book-long poem gives the feeling of swooping and soaring along with birds:


“They wheel away

 from hunting hawk

single birds

become a flock


Waves like water

dark then light

from down to up

then left to right


a rush, a murmur

out turns in

a dot-to-dot

a corkscrew spin


flapping fervor

noisy clutch

they dance together

without touch”


The title page of ONE DARK BIRD presents a brief explanation of fascinating starling behavior:


“Sometimes, when starlings are startled or threatened they come together to form a murmuration -- a single-seeming mass that performs coordinated, acrobatic dances in the sky. A murmuration can number in the hundreds or thousands of birds, and is quite a sight to see…”


The mixed-media illustrations portray a multicultural cast of people below, or sometimes watching out the window, as the starlings perform in the sky. There are several close-ups of starlings, providing readers a good look at the shape and coloring of the birds.


It’s all too easy to become blasé about a bunch of birds flying around. The stunning and melodic ONE DARK BIRD provides a sense of wonder about these amazing little everyday creatures.


And if you would like to pair it with another bird-related poem, I recommend the titular poem “A Lucky Thing” from the 1999 picture book of poems by Alice Schertle and Wendell Minor.


Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

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