The Dawn Chorus, by Suzanne Barton, published by Bloomsbury Children's
Our toddler has been a keen singer for at least as long as she's been able to talk. The first songs we can remember her singing include her take on ABC that occasionally broke into Twinkle Twinkle, and the Sesame Street version of 'We All Sing with the Same Voice'.
Lately, she's become proficient at delivering the words and accompanying actions of the washing up song from CBeebies show 'I can cook'. While we're reassured that she responds well to accomplished singers such Aretha Franklin and Buena Vista Social Club, she adores accompanying Elsa and Ana to melodies centred on 'frozen fractals' and other seemingly unlikely subjects.
The Dawn Chorus, Suzanne Barton's debut picturebook, is a celebration of singing and song, set among the trees, flowers and riverbanks of a forest. Its pages are adorned by an array of poppies, autumnal leaves and musical notes. It is also, we think, a new iteration of the tale of the ugly duckling, promoting the important message that we can all find a place for our innate talents if we practice hard and keep trying after a set back.
When the wonderfully-named young bird, Peep, wakes to the sound of a beautiful tune, we join him as he seeks out its source. On discovering the forest's Dawn Chorus, Peep asks to join them. He is invited to attend an audition before their next morning's recital. Peep practices all evening, before falling asleep, waking too late.
He's given one more chance, and returns home to practice, singing "so sweetly that all of the forest animals stopped to listen". Not wanting to miss his big moment, he keeps himself awake all night, but is too tired to perform when morning comes. "Perhaps you're just not meant to sing", says the conductor, and a despondent Peep walks away.
As the sun sets, Peep starts to sing again, but this time hears the song of a bird that looks just like him. Asking his new friend why it is that he can only sing in the evening he is told: "Because you're a nightingale, just like me".
As this sweet, reflective and wonderfully illustrated book draws to a close, the moon shines and the forest sleeps, and the nightingales sing their duet in perfect harmony.