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When Katherena and her mother move to a small town, Katherena feels lonely and out of place. But when she meets an elderly woman artist who lives next door, named Agnes––her world starts to change.

Katherena and Agnes share the same passions for arts and crafts, birds, and nature. But as the seasons change, can Katherna navigate the failing health of her new friend?

Award-winning author and artist Julie Flett’s textured images of birds, flowers, art, and landscapes bring vibrancy and warmth to this powerful story, which highlights the fulfillment of intergenerational relationships, shared passions, and spending time outdoors with the ones we love.

Includes a glossary and pronunciation guide to Cree words that appear in the text.

48 pages, Hardcover

First published September 24, 2019

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About the author

Julie Flett

30 books127 followers
Julie Flett is a Cree-Metis author, illustrator, and artist. She has received many awards including the 2017 Governor General's Award for Children's Literature for her work on When We Were Alone by David Robertson (High Water Press), the 2016 American Indian Library Association Award for Best Picture Book for Little You by Richard Van Camp (Orca Books), and she is the three-time recipient of the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Award for Owls See Clearly at Night; A Michif Alphabet, by Julie Flett, Dolphin SOS, by Roy Miki and Slavia Miki (Tradewind Books), and My Heart Fills with Happiness, by Monique Gray Smith (Orca Books).

Her own Wild Berries (Simply Read Books) was featured in The New York Times and included among Kirkus’s Best Children’s Books of 2013. Wild Berries was also chosen as Canada’s First Nation Communities Read title selection for 2014–2015.

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5 stars
618 (45%)
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533 (38%)
3 stars
186 (13%)
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30 (2%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 298 reviews
Profile Image for Calista.
3,870 reviews31.2k followers
October 25, 2020
To me, this is an Ode to Nature. I also love and adore the artwork. I think it's lovely. The writing is so plainly told that I guess the author did that on purpose.

One line that rung my bell was "Its like a poem for my heart" I love that line.

The story is about a Cree mother and daughter who move from the seaside inward to the grassy hilled plains somewhere and there are few people around. The story takes place over a year and we see peeks into Summer, Fall, Winter and then Spring come again. It's a very simple story about sharing the beauty of nature and the gifts of art together. I enjoyed learning about Cree moons, they are a mouthful to try and say. Ex. ayikipisim is the frog moon. The dog is named Oho which is Cree for Owl. I love naming the dog after owl.

This is not an exciting, funny story. It is a slow burn story for kids who love quiet or just doing their thing and enjoy nature. I can tell you that it would have bored both my niece and nephew if they had read it.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,340 reviews524 followers
February 23, 2022
As Katherena and her mother move inland from the seaside, we are reminded of the rhythm of the seasons and the beauties of nature that are all around. Their new neighbor is Agnes. The young girl of Cree descent and her new neighbor share their love for art and the great outdoors. Through their friendship, Katharena learns to love her new home and comforts Agnes during an illness. By putting her art up in Agnes' room, Katharena brings the outside in. Cree terms are sprinkled into the text and the layered illustrations calm and comfort.
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,759 reviews1,218 followers
December 28, 2019
This is a lovely book. I love that some Cree words and customs are seamlessly included. I enjoyed the contemplative and thoughtful narrative about the seasons and about aging and loss. I loved that the girl is an artist and I loved the dog. The illustrations are picturesque and they’re beautiful. Perfect book for young children who appreciate making art, gardening, nature, the seasons, and who might be experiencing a loss, whether a move or the decline or even death of a much older person whose company they enjoy.
Profile Image for Hilary .
2,230 reviews398 followers
November 2, 2021
Katherina moves from her home by the sea, she misses her old home and finds her new life very different. She starts to explore her new surroundings and gets to know her elderly neighbour, Agnes. Soon they become friends, despite the difference in age they share a love of art and nature. When Agnes becomes unwell, Katherina thinks of a lovely way she can show her friend things she has seen outdoors.

This is a touching story about intergenerational friendship. The addition of some Cree words makes this a really interesting story. The illustrations are beautiful, lovely colours and seasonal scenes.

This could be a very helpful read for a child who has lost an elderly loved one.

Profile Image for La Coccinelle.
2,245 reviews3,563 followers
December 22, 2019
This is a lovely little picture book that spans the seasons and shows an intergenerational friendship between a little girl and her elderly neighbour.

I'm already a fan of Flett's artwork, having encountered it in My Heart Fills With Happiness, Little You, and We Sang You Home, all of which were written by others. As illustrator and author, Flett takes us on a little journey through the year, showing Katherena and Agnes's friendship develop through the simplest things. Agnes eventually gets ill and weak, but this is handled in a kid-friendly way that leaves the ending open to interpretation.

The illustrations here are lovely, and nicely portray the seasons. If you're already a fan of Flett's style, you'll find plenty to like here.

Overall, this is a lovely look at an intergenerational friendship. I'd recommend it to fans of Flett's work, as well as to those who are searching for books about friendships between children and seniors.

Quotable moment:

Profile Image for Angelina.
682 reviews79 followers
November 5, 2019
A real gem of a picture book! A gentle, quiet story about the importance of art, intergenerational friendship, nature and its beauty in all seasons, and ultimately belonging.
Profile Image for Tyler J Gray.
Author 2 books218 followers
November 25, 2021
This book shows a beautiful friendship between a little girl and her elderly neighbor, they both love arts & crafts. Eventually Agnes, the elderly neighbor, gets ill and weak. It's handled in a kid friendly way. It made me teary.
Profile Image for Afoma (Reading Middle Grade).
577 reviews300 followers
March 21, 2021
Birdsong is a gem of a picture book. With minimalist, evocative illustrations of the Canadian countryside, this book is a joy read (or just look at). It highlights the warm friendship between a woman at the end of her life and a young girl. Birdsong is perfect for kids dealing with a move or struggling with the loss of a loved one. It’s also great to inspire anyone who’s ever been in a creative slump.

10/10, would recommend.

Read my full review on my blog.

I received an electronic ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Abby Johnson.
3,373 reviews313 followers
November 19, 2019
Ooh, this one tugs on my heartstrings. With moody, muted illustrations and straightforward text, this is the story of a girl moving to a new home and starting over where she doesn't know anyone. She begins to know her elderly neighbor Agnes who encourages her art and teaches her about gardening. As the seasons pass, Agnes grows weaker until she can't really leave her bed, so the girl takes her drawings and puts them up in her bedroom so Agnes can still see the birds. This is a moving tale about a special friendship that aches with melancholy in a great way.
Profile Image for Amy Layton.
1,641 reviews52 followers
January 11, 2020
A sweet, calm book, Birdsong features the story of two friends--one old, one young--as the seasons turn and health changes.  With Julie Flett's usual illustration style that makes you feel like you're watching the dawn, this book is a beautiful testament to non-traditional friendships and finding beauty even when times are hard.  Flett offers a love and recognition of nature and its tranquil effects, suggesting that even as days come to pass, nature will always remain.  Great for grades K-3.

Review cross-listed here!
Profile Image for Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance.
5,821 reviews284 followers
February 28, 2023
A young girl moves to a new home, far from the sea, and is very sad until she meets her new neighbor, an elderly woman, who shares the girl's love for nature and art. The girl's friendship with the woman inspires the girl to do art again in her new home. This is a lovely story of caring for others and the power of friendship to inspire. The art and text are simple and quiet, and the story is told as much through the spaces as in the actual pictures and words. Beautiful.

I am delighted to welcome the arrival of Greystone Kids, a new publishing company that is a part of Greystone Books. From the website: "Greystone Books is a trade book publisher that focuses on high-quality non-fiction books that appeal to regional, national, and international readers. The company is a leading publisher of books about nature and the environment, travel and adventure, sports, social issues, science, and health, as well as books that are exceptional literary expressions of personal passions."

“Under the Greystone Kids banner,” Rob Sanders, the publisher of Greystone Kids tells us, “we will publish picture books for young readers, and non-fiction books for middle readers. Furthermore, this new division will include an imprint—Aldana Libros—to be led by renowned children’s publisher Patricia Aldana—that will bring outstanding books from around the world to the English-speaking market."

To read an interview with the author, click here.
Profile Image for Kate.
796 reviews48 followers
October 11, 2019
This book is beautiful inside and out! Any book Julie Flett has her name on is going to be thoughtful, touching, and meaningful.

In Birdsong we meet Katharina a young girl who has a passion for art. She moves with her mother from a house by the ocean to a house in the country. Over the seasons she becomes close with their neighbor Agnes. She is an artist who is ailing, elderly, and reaching the end of her life. It focuses on their friendship, and their shared love of art and nature.

This book touches on important issues for children. Like loss, change and generational friendships. This is all presented in such a subtle, peaceful way. Perfect for young readers. The illustrations are alluring and lovely. I can't reccomend this one enough!

Thank You so much to @greystonekidsbooks for #gifting us this wonderful book opinions are my own.

For more of my book content check out instagram.com/bookalong
Profile Image for Rod Brown.
5,280 reviews176 followers
March 31, 2020
Too heavy for what I want in a picture book. Over three seasons, a little girl gets an appreciation of art and nature from the lady next door who is slowly dying of old age. It's nice, though, that the characters and author are of Cree heritage.
Profile Image for Alissa.
330 reviews29 followers
December 11, 2019
Julie Flett’s illustrations are truly some of the best out there, and they’re only getting better. GORGEOUS. 😍
Profile Image for Hope.
714 reviews29 followers
April 16, 2020
Read this at the perfect time. The illustrations are my current aesthetic. Loved it.
Profile Image for Amanda Nicholls.
25 reviews
June 9, 2020
Birdsong by Julie Flett is a recommended book from the American Indians in Children's Literature blog. Is is A Best Book of the Year in Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Horn Book, an American Indian Youth Literature Honor title, and a 2020 Boston Globe—Horn Book Award Honor title!
I listened/watched the story being read on Youtube. The quality was not great. The text was difficult to read, but the reader read with expression and fluency. It was obvious she was familiar with the book.
In the story, a young Cree girl named Katherena is sad because she and her mother are leaving their home in a city by the sea for a new home in the country. Her sadness is short-lived as she starts to spend time with her elderly neighbor, Agnes. Katherena and Agnes do many things together. Agnes shows Katherena her pottery and teaches her about the moon phases and Katherena teaches Agnes about the Cree language. The time they spend together inspires Katherena to draw. As time goes on, Agnes grows weaker and is unable to leave her bed. Katherena decides to hang her pictures all around Agnes' room for her to admire. Agnes is moved my the action saying, "It is like a poem for her heart."
The story breaks events up by the season in which they take place. Cree language is authentically woven in and the themes of friendship and loss are universal.
The poetic language would make Birdsong an ideal book for teaching poetic devices such as alliteration and personification.
Profile Image for Andrew.
1,506 reviews82 followers
June 5, 2019
Birdsong is a soft and sweet story of a young girl, Katherena, moving to a new place with her mother, and the friendship she grows with her elderly neighbor, Agnes. As seasons go by, Katherena and Agnes share stories and bond over birds, gardening, and art. Gorgeous illustrations, and even the sparsest of pages speak volumes in emotion.
Profile Image for Beverly.
5,159 reviews4 followers
January 15, 2020
Lovely intergenerational friendship story. It includes 3 Cree words. Incidentally, one of the subject headings for this book in the catalog was "intergenerational relations." In addition to Horn Book Fanfare, it was also a Kirkus Best Children's Book, a Publisher's Weekly Best Children's Book, a School Library Journal Best Book, and a Nerdy Book Club Award selection.
Profile Image for Juli Anna.
2,455 reviews
April 17, 2020
Sparse and lyrical, with an enigmatic ending and just the right dose of melancholy. A poignant story of inter-generational friendship. Flett's illustrations are soft, sad, and just a touch abstract.
Profile Image for Star Gater.
1,191 reviews38 followers
November 15, 2022
Thank you to Kim --- Native Lady Book Warrior for the Skoden Readathon and to Cozy Reader Kelly for all the Indigenous books listed on your channel.

I'm thankful I keep a box of tissues close. I teared up twice.

Flashbacks of all the moving in my childhood came flooding forward. I don't recall appreciating all the beautiful things in this world like Katherena, the young girl in the story does. This little story focuses on the little things that mean so much. The little girl befriends an elderly neighbor, and the relationship works for them both at separate times when they need it. I was quite moved. I feel like it's a coming of age story.

The illustrations are simple yet effective, warm and moving.

I did notice Katherena is depicted as left-handed.
Profile Image for kate ♡.
475 reviews51 followers
March 18, 2021
this book!!
i absolutely adore how the story is very simple, but so profound, just like the illustrations.
currently #1 on my illustration/picture book wishlist (for when i have kids ;)
it has such an amazing vibe -- a grateful, loving, life vibe. not sure how to explain,
i. just. love. it!
Profile Image for Kelly.
60 reviews6 followers
March 27, 2021
I bought this book for a family friends 3 year old who I miss so much (pandemic separation 😔). It’s gorgeous. Now it goes in the mail to her ❤️
Profile Image for R Waterfall.
362 reviews
March 6, 2021
I absolutely loved this picture book! The illustrations are very unique and beautiful. Katherena has a wonderful story and I could relate some, since we both moved to a new house! I love how she is friends with Agnes (her neighbor) and appreciates the simple beauty of nature.
Profile Image for Richie Partington.
1,082 reviews128 followers
December 9, 2019
Richie’s Picks: BIRDSONG by Julie Flett, Greystone Kids, October 2019, 48p., ISBN: 978-1-77164-473-1

“All my life’s a circle
But I can’t tell you why.
Seasons spinning ‘round again;
The years keep rollin’ by.”
-- Harry Chapin (1972)

“When we’re done, Agnes says it’s like a poem for her heart.
Then I sit with Agnes and talk about making things:
mucky things and things with string and song
and paper and words. And then we sit quietly together,
on Agnes’s bed, until it’s time to say goodbye.”

Last week, I reached the date that I could sign up for Medicare in advance of my 65th birthday. My mind protests: I don’t feel very old at all! But as time goes on, it’s taking more and more out of my body when I repeatedly run up and down the stairs with grandchildren on my back. And there are some manual tasks I used to take pride in completing, which I have officially sworn off until my next lifetime. No more breaking up concrete slabs!

When I was young, I had important intergenerational relationships with my grandparents. It’s startling to think how old they appeared to me as a child when they were my current age. And when I do the math, beloved elderly mentors I met in grad programs were not as old as they seemed earlier.

There are a number of cherished children’s books about intergenerational friendships. For me, WILFRED GORDON McDONALD PARTRIDGE by Mem Fox; GRANDPA by John Burningham; NANA UPSTAIRS AND NANA DOWNSTAIRS by Tomie de Paola; and MR. GEORGE BAKER by Amy Hest and Jon J. Muth, are long-treasured books that I first read to preschoolers who are now parents.

BIRDSONG by Julie Flett is a notable new picture book about an intergenerational friendship. It’s well worth adding to the collection.

Katherena has moved with her mother from a seaside city to a new home out in the country. Katherena has always loved to draw, but she is struggling with the relocation, and she doesn’t feel like drawing now. That is, until she meets her elderly neighbor Agnes.

Agnes works with clay. The budding friendship between the two artists inspires Katherena to resume her drawing. And when age and winter confine Agnes to her bed, it is Katherena’s artwork taped all over the elderly neighbor’s bedroom that lifts Agnes’s spirits.

I think back to the traits and actions that elders have modeled, like patience, ingenuity, compassion; and opening doors for others. I think of the continuum in which I find myself: I once had a childhood relationship with a grandmother born across the ocean in the 1880s. I now have relationships with grandchildren born in the 2010s. Such relationships bridging generations are so valuable for both the older and the younger friend. And that’s why BIRDSONG is a real winner.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com
Displaying 1 - 30 of 298 reviews

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