Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Review - Birds of a Feather: A Book of Idioms and Silly Pictures

Birds of a Feather: A Book of Idioms and Silly Pictures
by Vanita Oelschlager
illustrated by Robin Hegan
Date: 2009
Publisher: Vanita Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Children are innately curious about words, especially phrases that make them laugh ("Ants in your pants!"), sound silly ("Barking up the wrong tree" or "Goosebumps") or trigger images that tickle a child's sense of the absurd ("Like a bull in a china shop"). Birds of a Feather introduces children to the magic of idioms words that separately have one meaning, but together take on something entirely different. Birds of a Feather introduces idioms with outlandish illustrations of what the words describe literally. The reader then has to guess the "real" meaning of the phrases (which is upside down in the corner of each spread). At the end of the book, the reader is invited to learn more about these figures of speech.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is not really what I was expecting, and it kind of missed the mark for me. This is basically just a collection of illustrated idioms (some illustrated better than others; what was with the square "butterflies in your stomach"?) with basic descriptions of what the idioms mean. For example, "ants in your pants" means you are "excited and squirmy and can't sit still". Unfortunately, that wasn't enough for me. I wanted to know why that combination of words came to be used in that way, and I probably would've loved learning about the origins of these idioms (since I would've known the basic meanings of many of them as a child, anyway). There is one example of this at the end of the book, where "barking up the wrong tree" is given a more thorough treatment. I would've preferred the whole book to be like that, with the origins of these idioms explained, rather than just their meanings.

The illustrations are hit and miss for me, and I don't like the way the explanations are printed upside down in tiny print, necessitating flipping the book around if you want to read them (I read this on a laptop, which was pretty awkward). I also don't like how "bring home the bacon" has to adhere to gender stereotypes with the phrase: "In our family, my dad brings home the bacon." This book was published in 2009; why can't the mom bring home the bacon?

Overall, this wasn't great. If the author had extended the idiom origins throughout the whole book, rather than just having one footnote at the end, I would've liked this one more.

Quotable moment:

Thank you to NetGalley and Vanita Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 2 out of 5

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