Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Adventures of Sparrowboy by Brian Pinkney

Material from The Adventures of Sparrowboy by Brian Pinkney copyright © 1997.  Used by permission of Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

Henry is a paperboy who is left feeling glum from the depressing headlines in the newspaper. I hear ya Henry!  Henry muses that everything would be better if  the superhero Falconman was there. In the comic strip Falconman, there is a mystical falcon who transfers his power of flight to a state trooper, transforming him into Falconman. Unfortunately, the falcon is rendered flightless and does not regain the power until the trooper and falcon return to the original transfer site.

After finishing his reading, Henry hops on his bike and sets out on his route. Unexpectedly, a sparrow swoops down and lands smack dab in Henry's path. He slams on the brakes to avoid a collision and is propelled over the handlebars.  To his amazement, instead of crashing to the ground, he soars in the air. Henry has becomes . . .  Sparrowboy!
Henry uses his power of flight to solve some minor disturbances along his route.  The neighborhood bully sics his German Shephard on two little brothers.  The bully also tossed a little girl's cat in the air, asking "does your cat have nine lives?" Henry is resourceful and solves the problems simply. In addition, he saves the now flightless sparrow from several near death experiences.
Henry questions why the little sparrow does not simply fly away from dangerous predicaments. He does not immediately get the connection between his newfound flying ability and the Falconman comic strip.
Once he sees the sparrow falling after attempting to flee from a cat, Henry catches it with one of his newspapers. The newspaper is opened to the Falconman comic strip.  It is then that Henry realizes that a similar transfer of power happened with he nearly collided with the sparrow. As in The Adventures of Falconman, the only way for the bird to regain its power of flight is for both to return to the near collision point. They do, and the sparrow is then able to fly away. Henry, back on solid ground,  heads home feeling a little bit better about life because of his contribution to the block.

Brian Pinkney illustrations are very distinctive because he paints using the "scratchboard technique". Here is a link to his website http://www.brianpinkney.net/main.html where the process is explained.  For someone like me, without an ounce of artistic talent, I am awed by illustrators, because drawing and painting is completely outside the realm of my capabilities.

As an African American family, I am always happy to find books that feature characters that bear some physical resemblance to my children. It is very rare to find African American boys as superheros, so I was extra eager when I found The Adventures of Sparrowboy a few years ago. My boys love any superhero, regardless of race, but I think they feel a special connection to this book, because they can see themselves in Henry. In addition to pretending to be Superman, Spiderman, Batman, they also pretend to be Sparrowboy. I am a fan of Brian Pinkney and his wife Andrea Pinkney with whom he often collaborates. Our personal collection contains many of their books. I hope to showcase more of their talent in the future.

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