A young grouse packs a precious cargo of seeds for her migratory journey, only to find an unexpected home in another land while she awaits the coming of another spring.
Graceful writing and rich mixed-media illustrations deliver a poignant story of longing, belonging, and recongnizing the gifts of the present. A young rose-cheeked grouse is reluctant to migrate to warmer climates for the winter. Despite others' warnings that she should come with them, she delays and fashions a bag in which to store seeds and her favorite red Forever Flower blossoms. Alas, the bag weighs her down, and she falls into icy waters. Luckily, a spaniel playing fetch swims by, and she clings to it and is saved. The spaniel belongs to a young woman, and the grouse ends up in their home, where the woman plants the Forever Flower seeds. When seedlings sprout, they give the grouse hope that her grouse friends will return, and she longs for them and the coming springtime. At the story's heart is the message that although we might wish for things to come or long for things that have passed, there are delights to be found in the present–like parties attended by snowmen, a picnic on an unseasonably warm day, or the snuggly warmth of a dog. When the other grouse do return, along with the first Forever Flowers of the season, the young grouse is torn–should she remain with her new friends or leave with those who've returned? A lyrical, lovely tale.
–Kirkus, July 2014
In an allegorical story about time, change, and acceptance, a grouse mourns the loss of summer, clinging to a bouquet of "Forever Flowers–the first to appear, the last to disappear." As other birds migrate, urging the grouse to let go of the old and embrace the new, the weight of the flowers causes the bird to plunge into an icy river. She is rescued by a gentle spaniel, who takes her to his cabin home, where he lives with a flaxen-haired girl whose chiseled features and old-fashioned attire make it difficult to determine her age or the era. Danowski spikes the muted palette of her lushly detailed mixed-media artwork with dashes of red as the girl, dog, and grouse await spring inside the cozily cluttered cottage and prematurely picnic outdoors, until a "darkening chill ushered the three home." The sophisticated prose ("Darkness buried some days. Sunlight lifted others. The grouse, it appeared, felt that impatience could hurry the seasons"), infused with melancholy, should hold particular magic for sensitive readers who perceive a falling leaf more than simply the arrival of autumn.
–Publishers Weekly, July 2014
I seemed to pick up several books featuring birds this week! I was drawn to this book at the bookstore because of its beautiful cover. What gorgeous illustrations and writing. This would make a wonderful mentor text for the writing workshop. I would also use it for [a] teaching theme–when to let go and when to hang on. The only thing that made me laugh, though, is I doubt that [a] spaniel would've befriended the grouse in real life. I had a spaniel once.
–Reading, Teaching, Learning, September 2014
There is a hint that this beautiful book will not resonate with its intended elementary-aged audience when its first page is headed "epigraph." Indeed, the stated themes of "finding, keeping, and letting go" are hardly concerns for children, for whom every day is a new adventure and whose cognitive ability for reflective thought is a few years away. Rosen writes poetically about a young woodland grouse whose late migration is weighted down by the flower seeds she has packed into a little messenger bag–her attempt to capture the past. She falls into a river, is saved by a dog, and lives through the winter with him and his owner, never enjoying the beauty of that season because she is in such a melancholy funk about the end of summer. When spring arrives and the time comes to join her grouse companions, she trades one regret for another: What about her new friends? Danowski is an "analogy archivist" interested in the way drawings can spur human memory, and on her website, she describes their analog structure as accessible in any order. This book is unique in that the pictures were drawn first and Rosen's story was written as a response to the images. Danowski's pencil, ink, watercolor, and digitized full-page illustrations create a gorgeous, romantic woodland world, filled with the recognizable details and detritus of a life lived within it. Though lovely to look at, it's an additional purchase.
–Lisa Lehmuller, School Library Journal, December 2014