A clever counting book and fable unlike any other and winner of the 2011 Governor General's Award for Illustration. Ten birds are trying to figure out how to get to the other side of the river. The bird they call “Brilliant” devises a pair of stilts. The bird they call “Highly Satisfactory” engineers a raft. One by one, nine resourceful birds make the crossing until a single bird is left behind – the one they call “Needs Improvement.” This bird’s solution proves surprising – and absurdly simple. More than a counting book, Ten Birds is a witty story that highlights ingenuity, common sense and the inadequacies of labels. Cybèle Young’s intricate chiaroscuro pen-and-ink drawings depict a rich alternative world that both children and adults will marvel over.
Ten black birds appear on a winter night on a snowy riverbank; they are "trying to figure out how to get to the other side of the river." There's a bridge in plain view, but they appear not to see it. Nine birds use the fantastic arrangements of wood, string, hardware, pulleys, and fans standing on the riverbank to cross the river. The contraptions are shaped like the numbers one through 10; each bird reassembles its contraption into something new. One turns the wooden number "9" into a pair of stilts: "The one they called Brilliant' knew how to cross. Marching, he left NINE behind." The next uses the 8-shaped pair of wheels to build a water-paddled unicycle: "The one they called Quite Advanced' engineered her way." Only the last bird does the obvious thing and plods across the bridge; ironically, his name is "Needs Improvement." Young's (Jack Pine) meticulously drafted pen-and-ink artwork, reminiscent of M.C. Escher, grabs most of the attention, while the message about the clearest solution being the best one is somewhat blunted by the wonderfully creative and complex alternatives she invents. All ages.