written by Veronika Martenova Charles
illustrated by Annouchka Gravel Galouchko and Stephan Daigle
Tundra Books, 2006
0-88776-740-0 (hc) $22.99
for SK to Grade 2
Noor Nobi, a tailor, has lost his three children to a cruel accident. Overwhelmed with grief, he cannot work or even cry. One day he makes a trip to the market and sees cages and cages crammed with birds. He makes it his mission to use his wages to heal and free as many of these illegally caged birds as he can. Noor Nobi has found his new purpose in life.
Though this story seems almost mythical, it is a true one. After reading a newspaper article about Noor Nobi Mollah, the "Birdman of Calcutta," Veronika Charles became so intrigued that she travelled to India, found Noor Nobi, and witnessed the freeing of the birds for herself.
This vibrant picture book is twofold: It contains both the poetic story of Noor Nobi and also a section made up of an afterword, diary entries, and photographs of the author's experience. Charles's writing is elegiac yet filled with hope and makes mature themes such as loss and faith easily digestible for the reader.
Annouchka Gravel Galouchko and Stephan Daigle's artwork beautifully complements Charles's powerful text. Rendered in gouache, the luscious illustrations beautifully capture the busy streets of Calcutta and the exhilarating liberation of the exotic birds.
Although The Birdman starts on a tragic note, it is a tale of optimism and self-healing. This true story will be especially intriguing to young readers.
Naseem Hrab is the new librarian at the Canadian Children's Book Centre.