The Language of Birds is a retelling of a Russian fairytale, each page filled to the brim with text and illustration.
The conflict seems to be the most difficult story element to identify. In The Language of Birds, we’re not sure that Ivan wants or needs his father to believe him or that he is working toward getting his father to believe the truth, but the first hint of discord is when his father doesn’t believe the truth and yells at him, “Wretch! To invent such a tale! Serve you, indeed! You can spend this night with your friends, the birds. Let them serve you!” Ivan is punished, even though he tells the truth. And then, when he finds out that his brother’s story (which their father had believed) was a lie, he seems upset. “But my story is true!” protests Ivan. Other characters end up believing him (though not at first) during the story, so it seems that the actual resolution comes when his prophecy regarding his father serving him comes true.
With older children, it might be interesting to compare this story to the Biblical stories of Joseph and His Dreams in Genesis 37 or the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25.
Crime Scene [Setting]
Fairy tale world
forest—green and mysterious
1700s or earlier, old-fashioned, time of pirates
The story must cover a long period of time because the father says “Long ago, before I lost my fortune, I was a rich merchant.”
Ivan—truthful, kindhearted, not greedy, humble
Vasilii—liar, greedy, boastful, dishonest
Ivan and Vasilii are brothers, young men
Merchant—father, wealthy, values $ above all else, judges by outward appearance
Sailors on boat
Princess—beautiful and smart