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Baby bird's story reminds kids that it's OK to dream big

March 19, 2004|by LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

Each spring my children look forward to observing the birds that make their nests in various places around our home.

Last year, a mother bird built her nest on the top step of our treehouse sliding board ladder. The kids didn't even try to slide down the chute for about a month. They feared disturbing our little feathered friends.

Fear didn't stop them from climbing up so far for a peek, though.

There's something fascinating about baby birds - how they hatch from eggs and open their little beaks wide, anticipating the food Momma Bird will bring.

Sometimes babies are separated from their mother and need some help.

That's the position Carla S. Cain was in when she found a baby bird in her yard.

The tale of the bird's fall from the nest and Cain's experience caring for it is found in her new book, "My Story by Francis the Bird" with help from Carla C. Cain.

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"He was near death when I found him," Cain says. "I had never seen a baby bird this young before."

Because Francis needed to eat every few hours, Cain, who has a background in advertising photography, carried him in a basket everywhere she went.

She didn't intend to publish the book, which features photographs she took of the bird. She wrote it as a birthday gift for her stepgrandson.

"I was amazed at this tiny, little bird, at how much life comes from this tiny little creature," Cain says.

At the birthday party, the other moms asked for copies of the book.

It is unlike most picture books because the images are photographs, not drawings, of the bird's first few weeks of life.

He fell out of the nest, "screamed" and then was going back up into the sky in the hands of "one of the giant things that have wings but cannot fly."

I've shared the book twice, with my own children and with a group of second-graders.

Both times the children tried to guess what these giant things are that have wings but cannot fly.

A penguin? An ostrich? A chicken?

A few pages later, Francis refers to "my giant girl."

"It's a person. A person picked him up!" my 5-year-old gleefully exclaimed.

Children can relate to other parts of the book as well.

"Children just constantly amaze me with what they see in it," Cain says. "I hang on to their every word."

Francis likes to peek up over the top of the basket to see the world, but he ducks back down because the world looks scary.

He pretends that he's an eagle or that he can fly before he's able. He dreams of leaving the nest, and is finally strong enough to do so.

Kids need to be reminded that it's OK to dream big, Cain says.

"It's OK to have all these dreams because you're insulated by your family," she says. "If a family member is reading to kids, hopefully they'll make that connection."

Cain says she thinks the three lines on the back cover say the most about the story: "A common sparrow. A simple story. A profound experience."

"God made a lot of things in nature for us to learn from," Cain says. "Kids are getting wrapped up in man-made technology, but there are things that have existed forever that we can learn from."

Not surprisingly, she says her next book probably will involve another animal.




For more information, go to Cain's Web site at www.francisthebird.com.




Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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