This is an odd little book, but I have a soft spot for it as it was one of my daughter's first. It has quite simple words and pictures and is suitable for very young children. I read it to my daughter from when she was just weeks old. It's a chunky little square of a book, the smallest we own and a nice size for little hands. The board book format means it is quite hardy. Our copy is still in readable condition four years after purchase.
The idea behind it is to offer babies an introduction to the idea of birds, with a selection of different pictures coupled with some basic facts. The images differ greatly; from a child's drawing, to oil on canvas, with photographs, tapestry and cartoons inbetween. As a result the viewing child is exposed to wildly varying concepts of what a bird actually looks like, conveyed through a selection of different types of art. At times I've wondered if this might confuse rather than enlighten a baby. After all a ball on two long stalks with a beak differs wildy from a photograph of a flying gull. In the last image it isn't easy to actually pick the bird out and the image is rather dark and strange for a child's book, (Marc Chagall: Autour D'Elle, 1945). Perhaps it tries too hard to educate when very simple is actually sufficient for a young child. The idea that exposure to an oil painting by Chagall in a baby book will somehow lead an appreciation of art in later life seems a bit of a stretch.
Although I like this book I've gone off the Baby Einstein concept since becoming a parent, not just this particular brand but the whole educational toy arena which I think exerts a not so subtle pressure on parents to hothouse their children when little ones can learn from the world around them effectively enough. Baby Einstein were at the forefront of this 'educating baby' movement. Aigner-Clark was the original founder of the company in 1996, but it was sold to Disney in 2001. 'Birds' is one of a number of Baby Einstein books which describe a single subject through a range of images, others are dogs, cats and babies.
Despite some misgivings about the company ethos, 'Birds' is overall a sweet and fairly simple book. As well as being a good choice for very young ones, it could also be used when a child is learning to read as most of the text is very straightforward - 'this is a bird', 'this bird can swim', etc. 'Birds' may well encourage little people to develop love and respect for nature and while some may find the final image somewhat bizarre, it's difficult to criticise the overall sentiment, as summarised in the final line: 'Birds are beautiful creatures'.
Details: Board book: 20 pages, Publisher: Scholastic; 1 edition (14 Nov 2003), Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 8.2 x 1.4 cm, currently available from Amazon.co.uk for £1.99 new, (also available in a Spanish language version).
Introduce your child to birds in fine art, illustration and photographs.