The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown

The Dead Bird Hero

In 1938, Margaret Wise Brown wrote the plainspoken but evocative opening line of 'The Dead Bird': "The bird was dead when the children found it.”

This was one of Brown's earliest stories, written before she became a celebrated children's book author. She developed the story based on the ideas of the 'Here and Now' movement which aimed to celebrate ordinary moments in life. ’The Dead Bird' was inspired by a childhood memory when she and two friends discovered a bird that had fallen from a tree and gently buried it, marking the grave with flowers. This story was never published during her lifetime because the subject matter was considered too dark, but she always advocated for it to be released. The first edition of the book eventually came out posthumously in 1958, with illustrations by Remy Charlip. It was a success. Reviewers often mentioned that the story captured the feeling of children alone in the world and discovering the beauty of ritual.

The new edition with illustrations by Christian Robinson is visually brighter but true to the feelings evoked by the story. Robinson is building an impressive body of work of his own as both. writer and illustrator. He handles the challenge of updating and reimagining this story. For anyone that has helped a child through the death of a pet or a loved one, the tale is a gentle reminder that we heal each other by honoring the life lost. While generations of parents have discovered this book during a period of loss we think the book is best introduced in the normal rotation of stories as a wonderful way to help children start to think about the deep mystery that is life.