It’s not hard at all to see why The Dawn Chorus, debut picture book from author-illustrator Suzanne Barton, was nominated for the 2015 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.
Its lyrical and evocative prose sets the scene right from the first lines: ‘Deep in the forest, the trees rustled and the animals stirred. The day had just begun.’ One of those animals is Peep, a young bird who awakes to the sound of a beautiful tune drifting through the forest and decides to track down the source – not an owl, mouse or frog… but a tree full of singing birds!
Peep is a loveable and sympathetic main character. We really feel for him as he desperately tries to join the dawn chorus only to be thwarted by his own sleepiness, which may particularly resonate which those children (and parents!) who aren’t morning people either. But Peep soon makes a wonderful discovery about who he really is and why the dawn chorus might not be quite right for him.
Suzanne Barton’s illustrations are as warm as the story itself: they don’t overwhelm the page, yet there’s plenty of detail to enjoy and talk about (especially the collage elements). I found the night-time spreads near the end, complete with skies full of stars, particularly beautiful.