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The Dead Bird

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  691 Ratings  ·  189 Reviews
One day, the children find a bird lying on its side with its eyes closed and no heartbeat. They are very sorry, so they decide to say good-bye. In the park, they dig a hole for the bird and cover it with warm sweet-ferns and flowers. Finally, they sing sweet songs to send the little bird on its way.
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published 1965 by William Morrow & Co (first published 1938)
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Rating details
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Nov 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: grief
And as a mother, I'd really like to add a line, "and then the children washed their hands."
Dec 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Much of the time, especially now that I am a library teacher, I find myself looking for books that fill some kind of purpose. This book is pretty much useless for talking about loss with kids. This book is certainly no good at all if you want to instill any sense of hygiene in your children. Its plot is ambiguous, its themes beyond what we tend to consider children capable of grasping, and the illustrations are dated. I'm done assessing it as a librarian and teacher now, and can approach the boo ...more
Jon(athan) Nakapalau
Wonderful book that will help children cope with death by celebrating life.
5 stars for making me cry in the library.

"And every day, until they forgot, they went and sang to their little dead bird and put fresh flowers on his grave."

So tender! So poignant! So utterly devastating!

I can never read this book again.
The bird was dead when the children found it.

Remember the huge kerfuffle over the video of a little girl toting a squirrel corpse around the yard? If you were one of the people who flipped out over that, then you're not going to want to read this book.
I'm not sure why this whole, "Don't touch it, you'll get a disease" idea persists now that we've got flea collars and inoculations for plagues. Some people think children shouldn't touch dead animals and that's fine, I suppose, but I think it also
Some children find a dead bird, and while they're sad that the bird will never fly again, they're glad that they can hold a funeral. And, so they do, complete with a song, and shed tears. Children may enjoy this one more than I did. Originally published in 1938, this is a recent reissue with illustrations by Christian Robinson.
Nov 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
Perhaps in its day it was bold and revolutionary for being so matter-of-fact about addressing death in a manner children could understand but I'd prefer a direct conversation with my kids and I am able to do that. The constant reminder that the bird was dead felt like.....well...beating a dead bird perhaps.

I'd put this in a limited scope of usefulness akin to potty-training books. They may help in a specific process or context but it's not exactly the sort of story you sit down to read just for
May 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books, death
I am misty-eyed as I type. Seldom have I come across a book that treats death as the simultaneously sacred and mundane occurrence that it is, and with such powerful simple and straightforward text. and the illustrations...did anyone else see this book being translated really easily into a Wes Anderson short film? Brilliant.
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love the frankness of this book as it deals with the dead bird and how the children encounter, experience, and honor it. Robinson's illustrations keep it lighter and match the pitch-perfect childlikeness of this one. Touches on the natural world, on loss, on ritual. It's weird, but it's weird-good.
Bethany Owens
May 07, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think that this book is appropriate for children. It's very morbid and a little too descriptive.
The book I wanted to read is the original, illustrated by the acclaimed Remy Charlip. I have no idea if I'd like his art better for this story, but I have to admit I'm not keen on Robinson's. I wonder if Brown's estate wanted this to be in print for modern children, but Charlip's didn't? Whatever.

The story itself captures the children's perspectives and all their feelings about what death means perfectly and concisely. Children do have a genuine understanding of loss, of the fragility of life, a
Dec 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrensbooks
I read this book for work. It was incredible. I believe it is out of print now, but it follows four children as they come across a dead bird. They hold it and listen for a heartbeat, but realize it is dead. They decide to bury it, hold a funeral, sing to the bird, and mark the grave. They return to place new flowers on the grave and sing to the dead bird until eventually, they resume play. It was awesome. I read an interview of Margaret Wise Brown in her alumni magazine and also learned about th ...more
Sep 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: juvies, fictions
A picture book about four kids who find a dead bird and bury it. Some might find it morbid. Some might see that it's a great little story about how young kids handle death, and how they pay tribute to the dead, well, until they forget. Simple, but wonderful. I'd read it to my kids. Then again, I'd read Edward Gorey to them too.
Jun 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a weird and wonderful picture book. Also excellent timing for this book to appear on our new book shelves, as I accidentally killed a baby bird yesterday and have spent the last 24 hours traumatized.
Mar 01, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I want to do a creepy story time with this book, The Tailypo, Louis King of the Sheep, etc.

Also have concluded that Margaret Wise Brown books are basically what being on drugs must be like.
Aug 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was... interesting. Kind from my funeral school perspective (but the kids need to wash their hands xD). Odd from my library associate side. So, yeah...
Laura (Bookies & Cookies)
This book was first published in 1938 which explains SOOOOO much because this book was hella weird.
Some books truly do stand the test of time, and this one, which tackles the tough topic of death with respect, honesty, and a slight touch of humor leavened with the awareness that time makes us forget things, even when it is a brush with death. With stunning traditional media and Photoshop illustrations, this picture book breathes new life into a memorable classic, published originally in 1938, if you can believe that. Four children come across a dead bird on their way to play in the park. Like ...more
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
This is a reillustrated edition of the classic picture book by Margaret Wise Brown. In the story, a group of children find a dead bird in the park. They check for a heartbeat but don’t find one. They are very sorry the bird has died and decide to have a funeral for it. So they dig a hole and fill it with sweet ferns and flowers. The sing a song and cry a bit too. Then they head off to play. They do visit for awhile, bringing fresh flowers to the little grave, and they slowly stop remembering to ...more
A diverse group of children stumble across a dead bird on their way to play in the park. They know the bird is dead because it had no heart beat and it was cold and still. They were sorry it was dead and could never fly again. Imitating grownups, they hold an impromptu funeral for the bird, wrapping in ferns for a shroud, singing a lament, placing a headstone, and planting flowers on its grave. In the days that followed, they continued to visit the graveside until they forgot.

This is a rather to
I love Christian Robinson's illustrations and they were what drew me to the book; I did not realize at first that it was an new version of a 1960s publication by Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny. I love how Robinson updated the work to make the children multicultural and the setting more modern. But I particularly loved how he, and Brown, demonstrate the ways in which children accept death, mourning, and renewal. I vividly remember burying a beloved guinea pig ...more
Jim Erekson
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: picturebooks, dark
This book gets a 4 just for the title. I love how ahead of her time Margaret Wise Brown was in putting this book out. She believed children should talk about difficult topics, and that books can help open the conversation. For death, Brown and Robinson) displace the darkness of the topic by making it about a bird rather than a person, by having a group of kids do the action together, and by setting the book in a vibrant green springtime. The springy setting reminds me of The Smiths' song, "Girlf ...more
Dec 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love the reillustrated version by Christian Robinson - the art is lovely. I was really moved by the story. Picture books about death are hard to come by, and this is just perfect for opening up a conversation.
Nov 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A simple tale about death. Often teaching children about this sometimes scary occurrence can be more approachable when dealing with an animal. The text is easy but direct and the pictures are dated but for me were familiar and soothing.
Carrie Gelson
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: life-cycle
Such a book of childhood. Love this new edition with these illustrations.
Edward Sullivan
Children find a dead bird in the park and give it a funeral. Originally published in 1938, this is a newly illustrated edition with art by Christian Robinson.
Elizabeth Willis
Aug 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: picture-books
Spare, heart-wrenching, perfect.
Nov 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Even with updated illustrations, this still holds up as a) a book I would not give to children and b) a bizarre account of dealing with death. I highly recommend a dramatic reading among adults.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a picture book that helps introduce the idea of death to young children. It's sad, but so is death. It handles the subject gently & is well done. It's not a book that will be one of those 'bedtime favorites' but is worthwhile to read to children to help explain loss.

"The bird was dead when the children found it.

But it had not been dead for long--it was still warm and its eyes were closed.

The children felt with their fingers for the quick beat of the bird's heart in its breast.

But the
I did some reading around the book and found that, apparently, it took Wise Brown's death and a significant time to pass between it first being written before The Dead Bird was published (from 1938-1958 to be extact). A very different book to the far more commercially successful, Goodnight Moon The Dead Bird tells the story of four children in the park finding the body of a small bird and choosing to bury it.

Originally illustrated by Remy Charlip (whose version also looks excellent), this versi
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Margaret Wise Brown wrote hundreds of books and stories during her life, but she is best known for Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny. Even though she died nearly 60 years ago, her books still sell very well.

Margaret loved animals. Most of her books have animals as characters in the story. She liked to write books that had a rhythm to them. Sometimes she would put a hard word into the story or p
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