"Of (possibly, according to the source note) Cherokee origin, the tale opens with Papa Sparrow, one wing injured, sending his family south and then seeking shelter from, respectively, Maple, Oak, and Willow. All three rudely reject him, but Pine, Spruce, and Juniper are more welcoming. That night, at the behest of irritated King Forest, Winter Wind denudes the uncharitable trio—who have continued to lose their leaves in wintertime ever since."
There is a great deal of text on each page, which matches the oral storytelling tradition. Each tree is personified with a face that is visible in each illustration, and vibrant colors help to capture both the natural scene and also the whimsical quality of the story. Scientific explanations are included at the end of teh text for teachers and parents to use when explaining the legend and its basis in reality, thus encouraging further exploration beyond the pages of the story.
Although the origin of this Native American folk tale is obscure, the outlines of it are a gift to be treasured. Decorative borders on all the illustration pages hint at Native American artistry and origins, although the exact source of the tale has been sadly lost. The illustrations showing human faces on the trees, the winter wind, and the forest king are also concepts that seem rooted in a Native American consciousness.
This lesser-known folktale will work with a wide variety of ages, as the story is simply told but its implications can be discussed at length, and there are also science tie-ins with birds and trees. The back matter provides detailed, well-written information about sparrows and different types of trees. The highly realistic cartoon illustrations, taken into the fantastical realm only with personified trees and other elements of nature, are a nice compliment to the tale and provide a detailed look at the featured birds and trees. The text develops a pattern of Papa Sparrow asking each tree for help. The language is a bit stilted at times, and the text takes up large portions of the pages. Still, this is a successful rendering of a folktale with enjoyable illustrations that could be shared in any elementary school classroom.
"The story tells of a sparrow who has an injured wing who sent his family south for safety. The sparrow goes around to different trees looking for shelter and food. Some trees deny his request for help but the Spruce, Pine, and Juniper trees offer what they have. Because some of the trees were selfish, they were delegated to spend the winter months with no leaves or berries on their branches. The moral of the story is that the trees who helped the sparrow were able to survive the harsh winter months without losing their leaves. It's a fascinating tale."
Children ages 3-8 will enjoy this modern version of a folktale. But as the follow Papa Sparrow from tree to tree asking for shelter during the Winter cold and seeing him being refused aid by the trees other than Spruce, Pine, and Juniper (evergreens) a lesson in caring for others can be learned. However, the primary focus of the book is a folktale of how trees lost their leaves when Winter arrives.
The book includes additional information about sparrows and trees, and extension activities.The illustrations are crisp and lovely, and the story contains a nice moral.