I can’t resist filling your screen (and mine) with this gorgeous front cover:
The Crow’s Tale by Naomi Howarth (@nhillustrator) is a visually spectacular retelling of a Lenni Lenape Native American legend about how the crow came to have black feathers, and about what counts as real beauty: not how you look, but how you behave.
Deep in the middle of a snowy winter, the animals are all cold and hungry. Crow volunteers to bring back some warmth from the sun, but in doing so he is changed forever. Will his friends still love him?
You see, Crow used to have breathtakingly brilliant feathers in ever colour under the sun. But where there’s fire, there’s soot, and Crow despairs at how his outward appearance is transformed, when all he wanted to do was help his friends.
What this dazzling story tells us all, however, is that “your beauty inside” is what really matters and shines through. Selfless, brave and still beautiful, Crow learns that what his friends really value is his kindness, generosity and courage, not whether his feathers are black or shot through with rainbows.
Howarth’s picture book début is a feast for the eyes, and not least in the way the black crow feathers are reproduced (I can’t show them here because the special printing techniques just don’t show up on a computer screen). Her use of colours reminds me at times of a favourite illustrator of mine – Karin Littlewood – and Howarth’s use of varied perspective keeps page turns surprising.
The fluency of the rhyming text doesn’t quite match the sumptuous heights of the illustration, but the sentiment is heart-warming, encouraging and just right for boosting confidence and encouraging consideration of what we value in ourselves and others.
Inspired by the stunning array of Crow’s original feathers we set about making our own rainbow plumage. We decorated lots of white feathers using slightly watered-down acrylic paint (the acrylic paint “sticks” nicely to the feathers – much more easily and/or brightly than watercolour or poster paint does – and by watering it down it is easier to apply):
Once our feathers were dry we turned them into a piece of art, positioning them in a circle (we used a plate to guide us) on a piece of black card.
It’s now one of the first things you see when you enter our front door (along with obligatory piles of books):
Whilst painting feathers we listened to:
Other activities which might work well alongside reading The Crow’s Tale include:
If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:
Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher.