Featured image of post _Bird Boy_

Bird Boy

Cover of Bird Boy
4–8 years
Matthew Burgess
Shahrzad Maydani
20 July 2021
32 pages

Curriculum links

  • Personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE)
  • Class community building
  • Common animals (birds)

Publisher’s summary

Take flight in this heartwarming story about a boy who learns to be true to himself at school while following his love of nature.

Nico was new, and nervous about going to school. Everyone knew what to do and where to go, but Nico felt a little lost.

So, he did what he loved to do:
Watched the insects
Sat in the grass
And most importantly… befriended the birds.

Before he knew it, Nico was known as BIRD BOY. But Nico didn’t mind. Soon, he made one friend, then two, as the other kids learned to appreciate Nico for who he was. Before long, Nico learned he could be completely, delighfully, himself. This dreamy story will encourage all readers to express who they are unapologetically.

In Environmental Education

Outdoor and environmental education can have a heavy focus on science and field craft skills. However when I think back to how I spent time in nature as a child, much of it was spent doing nothing in particular. Making rivers which connecting puddles in melting snow. Watching ants busily at work. Whole recesses and lunch periods could be spent at these idle pasttimes. Somewhere along the way kids forget how to enjoy being outside without any specific goal or activity.

Nico’s story is a reminder that there is value in simply sitting quietly and enjoying the surroundings. Nature can provide refuge from stressful social situations. Opportunities for individual exploration can be liberating for kids, allowing them to immerse themselves in an experience without worrying about what classmates will think. Supporting kids in developing this kind of relationship with nature gives them a resource they can always rely on.

Laughter and boistrous fun are easy indicators of engagement, and many outdoors experiences can be planned with these in mind. However, not all kids are as comfortable with these types of experiences, particularly when in new places. Making space for quiet experiences and solitary exploration can help some kids begin to feel comfortable and open to the more boistrous activities.

Discussion ideas

The power of names
Nico likes birds and the birds like him, but that isn’t the only reason why the other kids start calling him ‘Bird Boy’. A challenging discussion for younger kids, but why do Nico classmates choose to give him a nickname? How do Nico’s classmates think the nickname makes him feel? Do all nicknames hurt people? Why or why not? What could other classmates have done when they realized Nico was hurt by being called Bird Boy at first?

We know that the nickname hurts Nico at first becuase he knows the others are teasing him. What do you think it means when Nico turns the name over in his mind? Why does it make him smile after a while?

What do you like to do outside?
Each illustration is filled with little details of Nico’s classmates in action. What kinds of things are his classmates doing? What kinds of things do the readers like to do outside?

Activity ideas

Make and celebrate a nickname
The other kids call Nico Bird Boy to tease him, but he turns that name over in his head and makes it something good. Kids can take inspiration from this to take something they like or something they enjoy doing, and creat their own nicknames. They might draw or make a costume for themselves, write a short story, or just play as themselves.

Animal yoga
Take inspiration from animal behaviour like Nico and give some animal yoga poses a try!
Animal yoga poses for kids - KidsYogaFun.com

Bird feeders
Set up a bird feeder! There are many different styles: bottles with holes and a stick for a perch, pinecones with peanut butter, bird tables etc. Each will attract different birds from your local area. Place them somewhere semi-secluded where kids can watch the action without needing to get too close. Older kids can help wash the feeders each week with soapy water to keep them clean.

Bird watching
Nico loves imagining himself as a bird. Spend some time watching birds in your area and develop an appreciation for the different characters in your neighbourhood! What kinds of personalities do different types of bird have? Binoculars can help, but aren’t necessary. A pair of toilet rolls stapled together can be enough to help kids focus their attention.

Further exploration of themes in the book

Nicknames and bullying

Essay giving an overview of some of the social effects of nicknames - ChildResearch.net

What to do when mean act emerge - How to bullyproof your classroom (book chapter) - via ResponsiveClassroom.org

More about the book

Essays from the author on themes within Bird Boy - Author’s website

Meet the Author interview and lesson ideas - TeachingBooks.net

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