06 June 2009

How to Heal a Broken Wing

Written and Illustrated by Bob Graham

Walker Books. Australian, Picture Book. Hardback rrp $27.95

Guest Reviewer Jo Burnell

How to Heal a Broken Wing begins with a pigeon hitting high-rise glass. The bird falls tens of metres, but survives, lying on the footpath alone, unnoticed. Peak hour brings crowds. Bob Graham’s words and illustrations portray jarring opposites. ‘No one looked’, yet the pictures clearly show people carefully stepping over the bird. Looking and perceiving are worlds apart.

Everyone steps aside, ‘Except Will.’ This little boy’s name hints at a deeper truth. He is the antipathy of the drab, unseeing crowd who ‘won’t’ take the time to help. In eighty words, How to Heal a Broken Wing is a commentary on the power brought by simple actions. Noticing, caring and patient watching bring healing. Will is brightly dressed, lighting up bleak surroundings. Will stops when he sees the injured bird, talking his mum into taking the bird home. Whatever the plans were for the day, these are abandoned in concern for the bird.

Together with Dad, the family realise the loose feather can’t be reattached. They embark on a medical rescue. Three people work together improvising, assisting, watching. Not all goes to plan. There are disappointments on the way. A broken wing might heal, but no one knows if or when. Bob Graham adds colour to the pages as hope grows.

The day to release the pigeon arrives, with the trio returning to the city. The final pink-red glow of life, warmth and healing explodes as the pigeon returns to the skies. Even the city is bathed in soft pastel hues.

There is much left to reader interpretation. Perhaps winter has given way to spring. Maybe the family returns to the city on the weekend. I prefer to think that the actions of one small family softens the unseeing hardness of those around them.

How to Heal a Broken Wing is well deservedly on the CBCA shortlist for 2009. I return to its pages often to enjoy the warmth of its message.

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