Speed Birds

By Josie Rhodes

Recently I stumbled upon this absolute gem of a children’s picture book/How To, Speed Birds An Unforgettable Story That Explains How Cars Work, written by Alan Snow, a prolific (over 160 books!) author/illustrator from Bath, England. I had to do some digging to find out more info on this guy - I couldn’t find a facebook page for him or a website. I think this might be his instagram based on his recent endeavors in the epicurean world, oh and his new book Kitchenalia A Handbook of How Everything Works, which basically is the kitchen version of Speed Birds. But I did definitively find his publisher’s website, Simon & Schuster.

Onto the book…

Before even opening the book, just holding it in your hands, the cover has a glossy, reflective finish that immediately catches the reader’s eye. Since the characters in this tale are crows, I imagine that the shiny cover catching the reader’s attention is purposefully analogous to a shiny trinket that might catch a crows eye.

The story begins “on a hill in a wood” where a crow chick, who was tinier than the rest but had a great curiosity, was hatched. One day, the crows observe a falcon whose speed tops out at 242 mph. (Did you know that?!? I did not know that. SOO fast…) The tiny crow was mesmerized. He was determined to become the fastest bird in the world. But how?

The time comes for the fledgling crows to venture out on their own. As the crows fly south, they come across a junkyard laden with tools, machines, car parts, and blue prints for a race car. Now, this is where Speed Bird sets itself apart from other children’s reference books. Alan Snow is able to partner real engineering facts, including a diagram of car parts and a dash of physics, with actual engaging narrative. Step by detailed step (“Now it’s time for us to build the engine. Engines mix air and fuel, and spray it into a container, then set it alight. The mixture EXPLODES and pushes a piston down a barrel, which in turn makes a crank go round") the reader is guided through this little crow’s mission to build a spectacular car that will make him the fastest bird in the world.

As if the reader weren’t already engrossed in the content, Snow’s illustrations add that little something extra that truly makes this book special. His illustrations are creatively layered, silhouettes in the background with detailed line drawings in the foreground. His pallet is perfectly simple, mostly tans, blues, and greens, with pops of bright red.

Oxford University says that this is the perfect book for budding engineers, but I would say that this book is perfect for anyone with great curiosity, tenacity, and a drive for excellence { pun intended ;-) }.

This book is for sale at the Red Canoe

Josie Rhodesred canoe cafe