Saturday, February 20, 2016

Review: Birds of a Feather by Vanita Oelschlager

a book of idioms and silly pictures
by Vanita Oelschlager
Illustrated by Robin Hegan
Vanita Books
Picture Book
32 pages

Children are innately curious about words, especially phrases that make them laugh ("Ants in your pants!"), sound silly ("Barking up the wrong tree" or "Goosebumps") or trigger images that tickle a child's sense of the absurd ("Like a bull in a china shop"). Birds of a Feather introduces children to the magic of idioms - words that separately have one meaning, but together take on something entirely different.
Birds of a Feather introduces idioms with outlandish illustrations of what the words describe literally. The reader then has to guess the "real" meaning of the phrases (which is upside down in the corner of each spread). At the end of the book, the reader is invited to learn more about these figures of speech.


As a kid, one of my favorite books to get from the library was a picture book about idioms. So I was more than glad to get my hands onto this one and share something similar with my own children.

This book takes every day idioms like 'raining cats and dogs', displays the literal meaning in funny illustrations, and then offers the reader a short explanation of what is understood with the phrase...the abstract meaning.

The most alluring thing about this book. . .at least, from a kid's point of view. . . is not the educational aspect but the pictures. (It was for my kids and for me as a child as well). The illustrations in this book are not only bright and funny, but they--for the most part--catch exactly the nonsense behind the idioms which makes them so strange and ridiculous. There were a couple images, which I didn't find quite fitting. . .but that's why I pulled my children to my side. They enjoyed each of them and laughed at them.

As to the explanations - these are given in one corner of the picture upside down so that the kids have time to guess at the abstract meaning first. These single, sentence explanations come right to the point. However, I found that my 8 yr. old daughter still had difficulty with a couple of them (ones she hadn't heard in 'real life') and needed a little more explanation in order to really understand them. There's also an example sentence after the explanation.

Summed up, this is a fun book for kids to take a dive into the world of idioms, and they'll get a kick out of the illustrations. Although there are explanations, parents might need to expand and explain more themselves. But getting parents involved is by no means a bad thing! Even youngest readers will enjoy the pictures, but I don't think kids will really start to grasp the concepts until they are ages 4+ (probably more 6+).


Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

This sounds like a clever and fun book. Another aspect of a book on idioms is that it will help imbed a fascination with language and well-turned phrases that capture a moment. Idioms lay the basis later for a poetic understanding of metaphor and simile. I'm glad your children enjoyed them.

Tonja Drecker said...

How right you are!