The Sulky Vulture

Cover

Written by Sally Grindley, Illustrated by Michael Terry

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2003

“Eat your dinner,” said Boris’s mother.

Did You Know? A group of vultures on the ground is called a venue, but when circling in the air, they’re called a kettle.

Boris tells his parents he won’t eat his dinner because he doesn’t like meat. Sulking, he wanders off and meets Leo the leopard, who invites him to play tag. After Leo wins, Boris is sulking again when Flora the zebra shows up and suggests a game of hide-and-seek, which she wins. Tara the elephant finds Boris sulking and challenges him to a coconut throwing contest. Boris accidentally hits a rhino with his coconut and just barely misses being charged. Marvin the baboon asks him to swing on vines with him and Boris has fun at first, but then his vine breaks and he falls. He tells his parents about everything he didn’t like about his day and asks for a cuddle. When his mother tells him he can have a cuddle before bed, he announces that he doesn’t like bed.

Author Sally Grindley has written a wide variety of books for children, young readers and even young adults. In this picture book, she offers a character that starts out disagreeable and stays disagreeable the whole way through. Yes, there is a moment where Boris asks his mother for a cuddle and I expected this to be a tender scene that redeems his petulant attitude throughout the rest of the book. Instead, it’s just a segue to an ending that is clearly meant to be comedic, with the final rimshot of all the animals joining in on a chorus of “Oh, BORIS!!!” It didn’t work for me and only resulted in taking away the only soft spot in an otherwise grumpy story.

Rhino

You just don’t mess with rhinos.

Illustrator Michael Terry shows his expertise in drawing animals and his understanding of the unusual anatomies of the species depicted in this book. Vultures have a lot of really interesting features and it is neat to see them be given so much personality and life. Mr. Terry draws Boris with such a profound scowl on his face that if there had been any sign of gentleness in him during the scene where he asks his mother for a cuddle, the contrast would have been really noteworthy. I liked the illustrations, but not the story’s theme or characters.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that if you go around disliking everything, you’ll never be happy.

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