Shh! We Have a Plan


Written and Illustrated by Chris Haughton

Candlewick Press, 2014

Look! A bird

The plot in a nutshell:  Friends attempt to catch a bird.

Four friends are walking through the woods at night when one spies a beautiful red bird. The smallest one speaks to the bird, but the others shush him, producing a cage and saying they have a plan. They creep up to the bird and attempt to catch it, but tumble to the ground while the bird flies up into a tree. They get a ladder and try again, but the bird flies to a branch sticking up from a pond. They climb onto a floating log and try again, but the bird flies over to the ground near where the smallest friend is waiting. He greets the bird and offers him some bread. Soon, more beautiful birds join them. The other three friends show up with their nets and consider capturing some of the birds, but the largest bird leads the others in chasing them away. They run deeper into the woods and when they see a squirrel, they form another plan.

Big bird

When an advancing bird is taller than you, it’s a good time to run away.

This book, from author/illustrator Chris Haughton, comes pretty close to being a wordless story, with only a few words on some pages and other pages with no text at all.  Even those words are spoken by the characters, letting the story be told visually. While the physical action in the story feels almost slapstick in nature, there are a lot of levels of depth to it as well. The fact that it’s the youngest and smallest of the friends who manages to solve the question of how to get close to the birds is significant, as is the way he does it through sharing some of his bread rather than trying to catch the bird in a net. The digital artwork is beautiful in its simplicity, in shades of blue and purple with bright red for the first bird they see, blossoming into other colors when they encounter the whole flock of birds. I really enjoyed this book and felt sorry for the littlest of the friends, who is clearly surprised at the end to see that his friends have learned nothing from their adventure.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that wildlife is meant to be appreciated, not stolen.


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