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Birdsong: A Story in Pictures

Creator(s) James Sturm (author)
PublisherToon Books
Publication Date2016
GenreFantasy, Fiction
Environmental Themes and Issues Animal Abuse, Animal Captivity, Animals in Danger, Anthropomorphism
Protagonist’s Identity An unnamed white boy and white girl who get turned into chimpanzees
Protagonist’s Level of Environmental AgencyLevel 3: Moderate, Plot-Driven Environmental Agency
Target Audience Children (5 to 6 years)
Settings Fictional forest
Cover of Birdsong

Environmental Themes

The human boy cruelly hits a bird with a stick in Birdsong: A Story Told in Pictures.

Birdsong: A Story in Pictures follows the tradition of Kamishibai, a form of Japanese street storytelling invented by Buddhist monks who told stories using picture scrolls. The short, wordless comic features two unnamed children, a boy and a girl, who cruelly abuse wild animals. They terrorize animals in a forest, using a sharp stick to flip a turtle onto its back and hitting a red bird with a stick. They chase the injured bird up the side of a mountain, where they encounter a furious old man brandishing a scepter. The old man uses the scepter to magically transform the children into two monkeys, presumably as punishment for their cruelty. In their new monkey forms, the children initially live in fear and misery. A tiger and hunters pursue the monkeys, reversing the power dynamics of the opening scene, and they get used as a sideshow attraction at a circus. A close up image of the monkeys surrounded by flies underscores the circus’s inhumane conditions. Eventually, the circus frees the monkeys, and they return to the woods. They gather fruit and build a shelter in the woods. Illustrations depict the monkeys sharing their fruit with the turtle and blissfully listening to the red bird sing, suggesting that they have learned to treat animals more humanely and cohabitate with nature. However, the children do not turn back into their human forms, remaining as monkeys at the end of the comic.

The reformed children-turned-monkeys listen to the red bird sing, interacting with nature without cruelty in Birdsong: A Story Told in Pictures.
Posted in Fantasy, Fiction

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