Charlie Sparrow and the Secret of Flight: David Anderson
Acceptance is something that many people never attain especially when they are born with a disability. Some are disabilities affect their learning while others inhibit them physically. Children all too often learn from their parents to walk away from another child that appears to be different or even a different race or color. Charlie Sparrow is special and believe it or not can fly. Now, what is so amazing about that? Well: Charlie has not idea why he can fly or how he learned. Sometimes we are born with an innate ability to do something and it just comes naturally. Other times we try really hard and practice a sport, instrument or in this case flying moves you might say to excel at something that makes us unique and special. Charlie lives in a place called Tree City where no other bird can fly. His parents, not his other bird friends or even the doctors living there can fly. But, Charlie has feathers and when he starts to think about them he feels that just maybe his are magical secret ones that allow him to do special things.
Charlie loves to climb the stairs, his first time out climbing up the staircases of their trees something stirs within him and what happens shocks the Blackbirds, Woodpeckers and his parents. Next, he and Fanny Finch decide to see who can swing the highest and what happens causes his mother concern and forces her to put him to bed. Poor Charlie!
Some doctors really care about their patients while others like Dr. Nightingale well you decide. Old, really scary looking when you see his picture and not very friendly poor Charlie meets this man and what he says will definitely not set well with Charlie and forces him to take action on his own. Telling his parents that he has a rare disease called Leaping Syndrome, which he states, has caused many of the younger birds to jump off beds, chairs and even countertops and get hurt. Poor Mrs. Sparrow never really looked into whether this disease really exists and instead goes along with what he states is the only cure claiming the disease is defined in the Tree City Dictionary of Medical Conditions which any parent should have asked to have seen first hand. Now, there is a cure he states but that would mean a serious operation to remove all of his beautiful feathers and our Charlie was not going to have any of that nor would he give up that easily. Good for you Charlie. Differences are what make each one of us unique and special but in Tree City that was a total negative. No one wanted a child that excelled in something that they knew nothing about and others did not even want to learn more.
Charlie smart, resourceful and definitely persistent and loves to swing from high paces. But, when diagnosed with this rare disease his parents just want him cured. But, Charlie will lose this battle and rather than do what his parents want he manages to escape from the plucking chair through the picture window winding up coming face to face with another Dr. Nightingale named Percy. Charlie is about to learn that he is not alone. There are other birds that are different too and just want to fly. Charlie watches the birth of a magnificent butterfly as she alights from her cocoon and flies for the first time. Watching the butterfly spread her wings he too realizes that he needs to go after his dreams and not give up on himself. But, things change for him when he meets Dr. Percy and he enters the Leaping Cavern and meets the other birds. What I really love is how the author introduces the other birds, explains their differences and they talk about them in what he called The Share Circle. As an educator I find this really great as the other characters or in this case the duckling, eaglet and finch are part of this group and can talk about their successes and what some call think is a disease. A safe place for Charlie and the others. Disease or just the fact that he and so many others are birds and have what they call The Leap. Welcoming Charlie and learning that he can express himself freely, embrace the differences of others and his own is what makes this book stand out as this and other lessons are brought to light for young readers.
When Charlie realizes that there are others just like him that just want to be able to jump, leap and swing he feels encouraged. But, when you enter the Leaping Cavern you won’t believe the magic that happens within its walls and the things that each of these birds can accomplish. But, sometimes things do not always go as planned and Charlie hoped to win his parents over and prayed that they would find another way to deal with his flying. After seeing the butterfly and flying with her he realized the real secret but please don’t tell: Birds have wings!
Parents always want what is best for their children and when Charlie introduces his mother to his friends he thinks that everything is going to be okay but never realized that his father went in another direction. Not really understanding that Charlie was just a normal Sparrow who had special feathers allowing him to fly his father enlisted the help of the Geese Police and poor Dr. Percy was arrested. But, nothing will stop Charlie and his friends from going to the cavern and practicing. Poor Charlie really wants to teach the others what he can do but he’s not really sure how because he learned by accident. Never give up on us was what the others said and Charlie will not.
Poor Dr. Percy was arrested for so many crimes. Can Charlie do anything to help him? Will looking at his wings explain why he can fly? Into the courtroom came Charlie, his friends, their parents and Judge Trimble the presiding hummingbird who was so tiny it took some loud humming to be heard. As the prosecuting attorney a stork with a monocle begins questioning Mr. Sparrow we find out why he called in the police, what he really thinks about Dr. Percy and how lawyers can twist the words of witnesses. When people do not understand something they often react in the wrong way. Poor Mr. Sparrow did not realize that Dr. Percy was trying to teach these birds how to excel at what I would call their special talent and instead they sited the poor doctor with tons of crimes and violations. What do you think of these offenses: building platforms for jumping into water and what about creating an underground hole? You decide after you hear the testimony if Dr. Percy is guilty or innocent. Wait until you hear what one of the Inspectors shouts out. Poor Dr. Percy won’t anyone defend him? Wait until you hear the testimony of his brother and what he states are the dangers of this dreaded Leaping Disease. Is he jealous or is he right?
Dr. Percy is the next witness and although he admits to breaking the law and having Leaping Syndrome he asks to be heard. Feeling different, misunderstood can make any young child or adult feel alone, scared and even like as the author states an outcast. What is so bad about loving heights and enjoying the fun of jumping from high places? As he relates his childhood, when he realized he was different the author shares through Dr. Percy what many adults, teens and young children experience when people do not understand the differences of others or even try to understand them. Adding in his opinion of the Feather Removal Chair and the response of the Stork. But, the judge finally cracks her gavel and the stork retreats to his chair. So, what will the sentence be and what will happen to all of Dr. Percy’s good work? What will the verdict be? You won’t believe the sentence and you definitely won’t believe what Charlie does. Wings that’s all I will tell you. The end result and what happens is quite remarkable.
Author David Anderson provides the illustrations that help make the story come alive. The many varieties of birds, the judge who might be tiny but whose voice and power are present and the friendships he forms are invaluable. What lessons can be learned by all: differences are what makes us special. What we do not understand we need to question and learn more about.
What is the end result and will the law against leaping be changed? What about the Leaping Cavern? Will the other birds learn to fly? Find out when you read Charlie Sparrow and the Secret of Flight and hopefully our author will bring him back with the same cast of characters and more in another book. Cute pencil drawings help add some humor and a cartoon affect to the story. Kids can color them in add some color to the book when they read and reread it.
Some communities and adults are set in their ways and that is often taught to their children too. Parents can learn tolerance as well as children too. Friendship and understand are two issues that are brought to light as well as loyalty, kindness and the importance of listening to your children and hearing what that say. Charlie is special and is definitely unique. Tree City is made up of adults set in their ways and his parents have a lot to learn about him before they will accept Charlie for who he is? Will they come around? Each bird is unique and each one has his/her own talent that the author brings out. But, what will their final fate be? Will they fly or will they lose the one thing that makes each one of them who they are? Both adults and children can learn many lessons from Charlie. A definite must read for children 6-9 and even for adults to understand that being different is what makes Charlie and others special. Loved this book.
Fran Lewis: reviewer