Be Your Own Bird – Russ Willms

Be Your Own Bird by Russ Willms
Published by Beaming Books on November 7, 2023
Genres: Children's
Buy on Amazon

Pickles is a bird of a different feather.

While the rest of the flock sticks together, Pickles does her own thing. They practice their downward spirals; Pickles practices her downward dog. They chatter away; Pickles meditates. But when danger arrives, Pickles is the only bird who isn't scared. Will the flock learn from Pickles, or will they all become hawk soup?

Full of humor--and even some bird yoga--Be Your Own Bird teaches kids about mindfulness, self-confidence, and the importance of always being themselves.

The social message that young kids often receive is “Be yourself…so long as yourself isn’t too different.” In Be Your Own Bird, Russ Willms shows kids how being different can help everyone out. Pickles is a bird of a different feather. She doesn’t do what the other birds do. Doesn’t always like what the other birds like. She joins the group on occasion, but even then she does her own thing. When the hawk comes looking for a snack, the birds scatter and hide—but Pickles has a better plan, and its her plan that ultimately saves them from the hawk.

The thing I appreciated the most about Be Your Own Bird was that a lot of books that deal with being uniquely you are about the journey toward discovery or acceptance. The main character either learns that they don’t have to be like everyone else or the group around them learns to accept them for who they are. In Be Your Own Bird, Pickles is already a confident, independent bird and she’s already accepted for who she is. That alreadyness bypasses the implicit message from other books that confidence and acceptance isn’t the natural state of things and instead provides the explicit message that we all, in our uniqueness, have individual value to the community.

Willms offers readers bright and colorful illustrations. There’s good and sparing use of illustrated text that enhances the emotions and feel of the story. The illustrations are a perfect complement to the text, something you would expect when the author also illustrates. The use of yoga poses (or bird-yoga, anyway) also brings an interactive element to Be Your Own Bird, as little ones can practice Pickles’ different poses—especially the Leaf pose that saves them from the hawk.

In all, Be Your Own Bird is just a good time with a great message. It encourages young kids to be uniquely them and shows them how their individual passions and personalities have value to the community as a whole.