‘And there it sat like a rare and peculiar crown’ describes the bird that builds a nest upon Colin Jenkins’ head while he sleeps under a tree in a park. What a conundrum he faces! Colin decides he cannot remove it as he did not want to ‘interrupt the bird at such a fragile and important time of life’. This causes Colin several problems, but he decides to ‘wear it, so to speak’. The situation, text and illustrations are deliciously hilarious. Yet, there is a serious side to this story which shows that life sometimes delivers a ‘burdensome responsibility’ which must be faced.
Tohby Riddle delivers his highly amusing and implausible story using cartoon-styled illustrations which capture both the humour and the tragic nature of this story. Using line, mixed media, photos, pen and ink, collage and gouache, there is a tactile feel to each page, inviting the viewer to be part of the story and the emotions expressed. There are understated moments of humour that attract the eye, such as the bird in the nest grabbing a person’s cap while Colin passes by, but problems arise too. Colin is not welcome in restaurants and his noisy bird disturbs his workplace. He loses both his job and apartment. Meanwhile now mother and baby birds continue to offer amusing comments, sing songs and generally become most annoying.
Finally, enough is enough! Colin returns to the tree where he acquired the bird, hoping to return the nest and birds, but all the trees are already occupied. An astonishing moment occurs when a person peers at the birds upon Colin’s head and proclaims these are possibly the rarest birds – possibly extinct – in the world. At that moment, the birds take off, but because they might return, Colin places the now-empty nest by the window in his room. From time to time, Colin finds the most beautiful and improbable things in the nest.
This simple, yet deeply metaphorical story about life is multi-layered, moving readers to alternately laugh outright and seriously consider caring responsibilities for others.