As some of you may know, I am on the organising team for our local book festival (Portobello Book Festival). We were delighted this year to be joined by renowned storyteller and folk singer Karine Polwart and illustrator Kate Leiper. They had come to talk about their collaboration on this lovely book A Wee Bird Was Watching. This was one of the most popular events we held this year, with tickets all snapped up within a couple of days. What made this event even more special was that the book hadn’t even been released at that point but our audience members had the chance to buy a copy and get it signed.
A Wee Bird Was Watching is a beautiful story about a wee girl and her mum who settle down to sleep in the woods one night, being tired out after a long journey. As Anna’s mum goes off to forage for some food and Anna curls up to rest, strange sounds and shapes suggest danger is lurking. But all the time a wee bird is watching and will keep Anna safe.
Karine Polwart’s captivating storytelling skills are evident as the rhythm of the book make the words flow in an easy to read style. The danger Anna is in is tempered by the reassurance that that wee bird is indeed watching over her and despite being small, will be strong and powerful. A lovely lesson for small children that being small doesn’t mean being unimportant. The book could also instigate questions about why Anna and her mum are having to sleep in the woods, leading perhaps to discussion about children throughout the world who have to leave their homes for various reasons and seek refuge and protection in unfamiliar places.
Kate Leiper’s illustrations are beautiful. They are muted yet colourful reflecting the woods as darkness falls. They are rich in detail with so much to look for and talk about particularly at the edge of the pages, and will appeal to adults as well as children. The detail on her woodland creatures is exquisite and I especially loved the owlets peeping out their tree. Through the illustrations, there are lots of opportunities for small children to learn about the natural world perhaps learning the names of unfamiliar plants.
A Wee Bird Was Watching is a gorgeous book sure to be loved by young children and one which their adults may not mind reading ‘again, again’!
My thanks to the publishers BC Books (an imprint of Birlinn Books) for sending me a copy. A Wee Bird Was Watching is available now in paperback. You can order a copy directly from the publishers here.
From the back of the book
A young girl and her mother settle in the woods for a night’s sleep, after a long and tiring journey. But who will keep them safe from harm? A wee bird is watching from the trees. And he knows just what to do.
This is a vividly illustrated telling of a folk tale that speaks to themes of displacement, migration and protection.
About the author
Karine Polwart is a multi-award-winning Scottish songwriter and musician, as well as a theatre maker, storyteller, spoken word performer and essayist. She is a five-time winner at the Radio 2 Folk Awards, and her album Wind Resistance won the Best Music and Sound Award at the CATS 2017. She was also shortlisted for Best Actor `Scottish Oscar’ in the Sunday Herald Culture Awards.
About the illustrator
Kate Leiper is an artist and illustrator who regularly exhibits and undertakes commissions throughout the UK. She is particularly drawn to mythical and animal subjects and has previously worked on Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales and An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Mythical Creatures (both publisher by Floris). She also illustrated the Book of the Howlat (text by James Robertson), published by Birlinn in 2016.