I just read If I Never Forever Endeavor by Holly Meade. This delightful new book chooses to present children with the idea of exploration and risk taking through tongue-twisting rhymes and the flight of a bird. The protagonist, a young bird, never actually receives a name or personality, thus allowing any child to envision him or herself in the shoes of the bird.
The illustrations combine backgrounds made of watercolors with characters and central props made of paper collages. The paper collages almost seem to pop off the page, bringing to life both the inner angst and physical movements of the bird on his journey of taking to flight. All of the bird’s adventures occur on bright and sunny days thanks to the consistent light blue tone of the sky and rich shades of yellow and green in both the plants and the birds.
The charming plays on words scattered throughout the book offer amusement for any adult and introduce some popular sayings in alternate forms. My personal favorite was Meade’s alteration of the phrase, “on the one hand.” As the bird debates flying, he compares both options by saying “On the one wing, I would try…On the other wing, I could try.”
If I Never Forever Endeavor could be used as a powerful mirror by both parents and teachers. A fear to fly and fall might be a fear of not making friends or knowing the correct answer on the first day of school. A fear of to fly and fall might be a fear to stand up in Kickball during P.E. and trip over the ball. The beauty of this poem is its validation of any child’s inherent doubts of taking risks. This validation of feelings coupled with the success and satisfaction of taking said risks provides encouragement for the young audience. Meade also does an admirable job creating realistic experiences: the bird has trouble flying on his first few tries. But after his “thwack,” “thump,” and “flutter,” he begins to flap and “float alongside a friend.”
Overall, this is a cheerful and entertaining read with marvelous illustrations and a valuable lesson of experiencing the world that every child should learn.
“Friends of a feather, I say, endeavor and fly!”
Read and enjoy!