Thursday, March 10, 2016

Learning from Picture Books: THE CARDINAL AND THE CROW

I enjoy watching birds (and am participating in Project Feeder Watch) so the title of this book captured my attention. I didn't realize it was a fable! I don't see many of those in picture book form. I found it as part of my goal to read all of the nominees for the 2016 Blue Spruce Award from the Ontario Library Association. 

All the birds tease old Crow for his scraggly feathers and harsh call, especially proud Cardinal. But when Cardinal gets into trouble, there is only one creature smart enough to get him out. Will Crow choose to help the boastful bird? This thoughtful picture book, inspired by Aesop’s Fables, reminds us all that pride and foolishness often go hand in hand, or in this case, “claw in claw.”

The Cardinal and the Crow, written and illustrated by Michael Moniz, was published in 2014 by Simply Read Books.

First line: “Near the edge of a small forest lived a crow, who perched on the limb of a large, twisted tree from dawn to dusk.”

My thoughts as a writer:

I liked the way backyard birds are featured in this story inspired by Aesop’s Fables. The theme of bullying is central to the story and the ‘moral of the story’ is stated in the text (though in sophisticated language that might need to be explained to younger students).  This is a different kind of style than many picture books I’ve read, but it’s an interesting example of how retain the flavour of a traditional fable while including contemporary issues and familiar characters.

Different sizes of font for dramatic moments help to add interest to the design.

My thoughts as a teacher:

The large illustrations and straightforward storyline are good features for a read aloud. I also liked the descriptive language, which is sometimes good for students to be exposed to (and not so common with the recent trend for shorter picture books). The story in this book offers opportunities for discussions about teasing and bullying.  

Although this book is recommended for ages 4 – 8, I’m not sure it would hold the attention of some of the younger students in my kindergarten class, because of the wordiness and description.

Ages: 4 – 8

Grades: K - 3

Themes: bullying, teasing, fables


Discuss how the crow might be feeling at different points in the story. Why did the crow decide to help the cardinal?

Create bird puppets on craft sticks and retell the story in your own words.

Make a bird feeder and watch for birds coming to the feeder. How many different kinds do you notice?

For more great picture books, visit author Susanna Leonard Hill's original theme list of Perfect Picture Books on her blog or this theme list with links to Pinterest collections on each theme - a very helpful resource!


  1. Sounds like a good book. Love modern tales.

  2. Oh, the illustrations look lovely. We are huge bird fans here too. We often have hummingbird and kildeer nests in our yard.


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