Mel Fell – A New Favorite

This little sideways book by Corey R. Tabor, published last year by Balzer & Bray …

… has quickly become a favorite with my grands–and me. If you’ve read it aloud, I’m sure you can relate. If not, get your hands on a copy, quick.

Want to write a simple story? Type out this text to get a feel for it. Sooo much characterization here, yet the text (less than 300 words) is simplicity itself. A little bird named Mel, the most adventurous and plucky of three siblings left alone in their tree hole while Mama is away, decides it’s time to learn to fly, and by gum, she’s going to do it.

Want to write a story that teaches kids a lesson? Perhaps how they should be brave, even when they’re afraid? Rather than hit them over the head with it, consider this exchange.

“Aren’t you scared?” asked her sister, Pim.

“Yes,” said Mel. “But I won’t let that stop me.”

There it is, clear and straightforward, yet it whooshes right past as the story moves along. It doesn’t call attention to itself or demand a story pause. It’s just there for kiddos to take into their heads and hearts. Lovely.

Want to write a story that leaves readers with a laugh? After a triumphant, “I flew!” and cheers from Mel’s tree friends and a hug from her proud Mama, the final page gifts readers with a perfectly spot-on (wordless) last scene that shows Mel trying to convince her siblings to take their own leaps. Forcefully. Made me laugh out loud and want to hug the book.

When I first read this to two of my grands, I couldn’t help doing so with specific voices for Mel and her fellow tree dwellers who try to save her as she falls––squirrels, bees, a spider, ants. But it was the snail’s low, slow pronouncement (when Mel’s already passed), “Do…not…fear,…helpless…little…bird,…I…will…catch…you…!” that got my grandkids giggling uncontrollably. Oh, man, we had fun with this one. Now, every time they’re here, they’re pawing through my bookshelves demanding, “Where’s that Mel Fell book?”

Mel Fell has been awarded with, among other things, a 2022 Caldecott Honor, as well as several starred reviews. Bravo, Corey R. Tabor!

Read about the creation of this book at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Speaking of Caldecotts, we’re incredibly proud of our blogmate Andrea Wang, whose breathtaking Watercress won the Caldecott Medal for illustrator Jason Chin, a Newbery Honor, the Asian/Pacific Islander Award for Literature, the New England Book Award, is a 2021 Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book and a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, and garnered 7 starred reviews.

Try saying that 3 times fast. 😉

And that’s not the entire astounding list of accolades for this beauty. To see those, go here, to Andrea’s website.


Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum is the author of more than 50 children's books. Recent picture books include JACK KNIGHT'S BRAVE FLIGHT (a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection), HOW TO GROW A DINOSAUR, WHERE'D MY JO GO?, FROG BOOTS, and WE LOVE BABIES! She is also the author of a graphic early reader series, Thunder & Cluck (another Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection). In addition, she has authored two dozen nonfiction series books for Nat Geo Kids, including several titles in the immensely popular LITTLE KIDS BIG BOOK OF–– series. Next year brings her first humorous informational fiction pb, STINKBIRD HAS A SUPERPOWER. Lots more books are on the way! For more information about Jill and her books, visit her website at


  1. This is a good book. And I enjoyed your review. What a fun grandmother.

  2. Oh Mel Fell is brilliant and one that I’ve read several times with enjoyment. Thank you for pointing out some of the more subtle bits I hadn’t fully absorbed. What a rich mentor text.

  3. Sooooo good! And I just saw a preview of SIR LADYBUG, the first in a new early reader series by Corey that seems terrific too!

  4. Jill, I ordered this at “get your hands on a copy, quick” and then read your piece and Corey’s interview leisurely. Thank YOU!

  5. I’ve been wanting to read this one. Your review made me want to read it even more! I just added it to my TBR list and my library has it– hooray! Thanks for this fun post!

  6. We love MEL FELL here too! Such a sweet adorable story- bravo♥️

  7. Thanks for pointing out all of the brilliance in MEL FELL. It’s one of my favorites, too!

    • I know we’ve talked about this before, Judy. But I’m continually amazed by how few picture books really, really stand out in any given season. I love it when a simple, not-so-flashy book manages to do that. Gives me hope, I suppose. 🙂

  8. Wonderful review. Can’t wait to read this one!! Thank you. And congrats to Andrea, too. Fantastic!!

  9. I’m putting this on hold at my library now! Great recommendation!

  10. This is a fun book! I was happily surprised at the ending. Great format, too.

  11. Love your review! I’m waiting for my turn to get my hands on a library copy. Looking forward to reading this special story!

  12. I have read this book many times and my grandkids love it there were squeals of delight, alarm, and laughter while reading this wonderful playful book!

    • And you know, Terri, there really aren’t THAT many books that elicit those responses. I just read a newish book by a very popular author that was supposed to be hilarious. But the humor sailed right over the head of my 5-yr-old grandson. I hadn’t even realized until then that the jokes were funnier to adults. So … finding one that “works” makes you feel like you hit the jackpot.

  13. I have to get my hands on this delightful book!

  14. This sounds perfect. Thanks for introducing me to it, Jill!

  15. Jilanne F Hoffmann

    Love this book! I’ve reviewed it, too. Cheers!

  16. I LOVE this book! One of my favorites! So clever, and the tension build is fantastic. ❤️

  17. Great minds think alike, Patty. Yeah, you just HAVE to keep turning pages to see if she ends up boinked into the ground by her beak (the prediction from one of my grands.).

  18. Mell Fell – written so well!!
    Sounds like a terrific book; thanks for the fine feature, Jill.

  19. This sounds fabulous — look forward to reading “Mel Fell.” 🙂

  20. Janet Frenck Sheets

    Yep, MEL FELL is one of my favorite picture books. I especially love the wordplay.

  21. Want to take a moment to emphasize the element of this book that impressed me the most:

    This is a SIDEWAYS book.
    And it’s formatted in a way that actively enhances the storytelling experience.

    The book would have been lovely and charming and funny and well written had the been been “normal”; spine on the left, page turns from right edge to the left edge — you know — how we typically engage with picture books.

    But that’s not what Corey Tabor and the team and Balzer + Bray did. They made the bold and unique choice to orient the spine at the TOP of the book. Right from the start — on the COVER!

    Reading this book you can literally both see and feel Mel falling through the branches. And then, at the climax, the reader physically turns the book — right along with Mel — to reorient the pages and you flip upwards as Mel flies upwards!

    It. Is. AWESOME!

    A perfect union of text, illustration and design.

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