Fly, Chick, Fly by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

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Fly, Chick, Fly by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Madeline Wheatley
Reviewed by Madeline Wheatley
Summary: Fly, Chick, Fly is a sympathetic story about overcoming your fears, told from the point of view of an owl chick who is frightened of leaving the nest.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: April 2012
Publisher: Andersen Press
ISBN: 9781849393447

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Longlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2013

Do you have a born worrier in your family? This picture book is for them. Two of the owlets in the tale leave the nest with excitement and confidence. The third one is too much of a thinker for her own good. When her parents say she has to fly, she replies

If I fly, the crow might get me.
If I fly, the rain might wet me.
If I fly, a train might hit me.
My sister flew and never came back.
Why would I want to fly?

The book captures the essential truth that worriers need to know more before they act than their more confident siblings. Because I say so or just get on with it isn't going to work with them, and this story tackles the worrier's need for reassurance beautifully.

Fly, Chick, Fly uses classic story-telling formula and in many ways reads like a traditional tale. There are three owlets (of course) and it's the third one that captures our attention. The opening lines are straight out of fairy tale:

In the middle of the wood, there was an oak tree.
In the middle of the oak tree, there was a hole…..

The story is ripe with little repetitive touches that make it great for reading aloud. I loved the fact that the young owls all ended up nesting in different types of tree. It was almost a roll call of the main possible homes for the bird outside of the eponymous barn.

Alongside this structure and the theme of dealing with fear, there are telling details charting the growth of the owls against the backdrop of the changing seasons. The fearful owlet is not just a stand-in for any fearful child, as the cover image of her using her wings like arms to hang onto the tree might suggest. The descriptions and images also build a picture of her as a wild bird. The pictures that focus on the natural bird are among my favourites and include one particularly haunting image of the mother owl looking out from her nest. These birds seem somehow more serious than Tony Ross's often rather slap stick characters, though the backgrounds feature his trademark pastel shades.

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross have a long history of successful collaboration that has produced many wonderful picturebooks, from cult series such as Mr Xargle to quirky and unique one offs like Tadpole's Promise. Ross's illustrative style is the perfect match for Willis's imaginative storytelling. In Fly, Chick, Fly the story is told through what feels like a seamless blend of words and pictures. I'd like to say a big thank you to Andersen Press for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If your child wants to know more about owls try White Owl, Barn Owl by Nicola Davies. For a more complex take on overcoming fears try Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett. For more from Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross try Old Dog. Jeanne Willis has also worked with Jenni Desmond to great effect.

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Buy Fly, Chick, Fly by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fly, Chick, Fly by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Fly, Chick, Fly by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fly, Chick, Fly by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross at


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