ONE DARK BIRD by Liz Garton Scanlon and Frann Preston-Gannon

There are a lot of counting books in the world. So it seems to me, if you are going to make one it has to be extra special. Which is why I enjoyed One Dark Bird, written by Liz Garton Scanlon, and illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon.

To look at the cover, we see our “one dark bird” and expect that he’s our main character. But as soon as we open the book the end pages suggest that this book is about many more than that one dark bird.

The end pages are overflowing with an intricate dark bird pattern. They are swooping and sailing on and off the page. There are so many of them that the far away birds are merely dots.

There is a paragraph on the title page that explains a murmuration. We learn that it is a group of birds (starlings) that seem to move through the air like a single mass. But that this collective is really made up of hundreds to thousands of birds. Murmurations are magical. They are striking to see and ‘murmuration’ is a really cool word to know.

So, now it’s pretty obvious that our one bird will multiply into many and form a murmuration. Liz Garton Scanlon’s perfect prose takes off just like our bird. Her rhyming lyrics and gorgeous word choices mirror the dancing and flowing of the birds. It’s lovely. I often think that the best rhyming books don’t seem like they rhyme. They just kind of let you sing the words.

Frann Preston-Gannon’s graphic mixed media illustrations soar in and out of the page. Creating elegant dance and movement. Her use of foreground and changes of composition (we see the birds outside, then we see them outside a window from the perspective inside a house) builds to a satisfying crescendo. And then, both the author and illustrator count back down. Unwinding the murmuration until we are once again left with one, dark bird.

A murmuration is a spectacular thing to witness. And this picture book has captured its spirit and grandeur brilliantly.

Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Jennifer is the illustrator and author of several acclaimed picture books. Most recently is Always by My Side, 'A Stuffie Story', which she wrote and illustrated. She also is both the author and illustrator of Playing Possum, and Blue Ethel. Jennifer illustrated Gondra’s Treasure, written by Newbery award winner Linda Sue Park. As well as, Sometimes You Fly, by Newbery medalist, Katherine Applegate. She illustrated Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, The Inventor's Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons, by Alice B. McGinty, and The Adventures of a South Pole Pig, by Chris Kurtz.


  1. I will be on the watch for this one! Sounds fantastic! Thanks for bringing it to our attention!

  2. I love this book so much!

  3. I’m so glad, Debra. Thank you for stopping by our blog today!

  4. Wow, Jennifer! I love the art, and the combination with Liz’ poetic verses makes this a “must have” book for me. I think this is the most beautiful counting book I’ve seen.

  5. Love everything about this beautiful book, Jennifer :). Liz’s words soar, and Frann’s art delights!

  6. Love this book! Just picked it up at the library after Liz used it in a webinar. Such a unique counting book that flows so lyrically.

  7. This book looks amazing ~ from the title to the lyrical language to the gorgeous illustrations! I’m looking forward to reading ONE DARK BIRD. Thank you, Jennifer, and congratulations to Liz and Frann!!

  8. Hi Judy, thank you so much for your kind comment. It is a beautiful book!

  9. What a perfect combination for me, a fan of both Scanlon and starlings. Starlings are considered by many to be “sky rats”, especially by those who want only the feathered superstars at their feeders. As a wildlife rescuer I’ve raised starlings and reconstructed starlings, which gave me a chance to observe their lively personalities and incredible intelligence up close.
    As cool as murmurations are, I’m grateful for the way Scanlon’s and Preston-Gannon’s gorgeous new book will encourage thousands of little eyes to notice the phenomenon but appreciate that ONE DARK BIRD who forms a single swooping dot among the crowd.

    • Sandy, thank you for sharing your interesting perspective and experience about starlings. I agree with you—- yet another beautiful layer to this book is the message about working together to create something beautiful. Thank you!

  10. I grabbed this one from the new book shelf at our library last week–it soars!

  11. It is magical to watch a murmuration–I’ve not seen this in a PB. Looking forward to reading it.

  12. I’m a big fan of Ms. Scanlon’s books…and ONE DARK BIRD is lovely through and through.

  13. I, too, put this on library hold after Liz shared it during her webinar. Can’t wait!

  14. This is beautiful and so unique. I am happy to say my library has it on hold for me now.

  15. This is a terrific book!

  16. Beautiful! I am so happy to now know the word ‘murmuration.’ I see them all the time and am amazed at the flight patterns.

  17. Janet Frenck Sheets

    The words and illustrations both look beautiful.

  18. I love this book! Great illustrations.

  19. Oh, this is gorgeous, and I love the counting element. Bravo Liz & Frann, and thanks for the post, Jennifer! Btw, the only murmurations I’ve witnessed have been via youtube, but I find them so incredibly fascinating. Would love to see one in person.

  20. This book is a gem. I can’t wait to get my copy. Kudos Liz & Frann. Thanks, Jennifer!

  21. Starlings in flight are a marvel to watch. Though with my bird phobia it will always be from a safe distance.??

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