When I was doing storytime weekly, a book about a bookworm starling was in my regular rotation. Yes, you read that right — a Bookworm Starling. That’s exactly what Calvin (the starling) is — a bookworm. And that is his shame — his cousins call him “nerdie birdie,” “geeky beaky,” and “bookworm.” Unusual (gently derogatory) labels for a starling. Not that it deters Calvin — he mostly shrugs and turns the page.
Calvin is the only starling in his very large family who does not seem to care much about flying. (Refresh your memory on how starlings move about with this astounding video of starling murmurations.) He’s into books. In a big way. While his cousins learn to fly and chase beetles, bugs, and ants, Calvin sits and learns to read letters, words, and sentences. He dreams of adventure stories, information, and poetry. His cousins dream of insect eating and garbage picking. And although they call him by the above names, they mostly ignore him, so enraptured with flying are they.
And Calvin is just as enraptured with stories and learning. Pirates and volcanoes, dinos and planets, science and history — Calvin reads it all. He reads the entire summer, learning and absorbing everything his little starling brain can.
When the seasons begin to turn, the urgency for Calvin to learn to fly becomes apparent. And yet, he manages not to learn. This creates quite an issue, because the wind has grown cold and it is time to head south….
The entire starling family takes off, minus Calvin. They don’t get far before they turn around and come back for Calvin. He is carried in the most hilarious way, which more than excuses the unkind words previously used about his reading habits.
And as it turns out, Calvin’s reading saves them — Calvin is the unexpected hero! “Make haste!” he says, leading the entire starling family to safety. Kids love this! They love that his book-knowledge of something as obscure as hurricane safety came in handy. They all but cheer — actually, once a set of twins did cheer when I read how Calvin saved them all. And kids are further delighted when Calvin flaps his wings in happiness, jumping and hopping and dancing…and flies! At last!
When I looked up the author, Jennifer Berne, I found out there’s another Calvin book! I don’t know how I missed it. Ms. Berne and the illustrator, Keith Bendis, have told an empowering story, (without being preachy!) about the wonders and necessity of reading. Can’t wait to read Calvin’s next adventures. I’m off to find a group of kids to read to….