Red Bird’s Songby Glenn McCarty, illustrated by Aedan Peterson
Deep in the jungle, high in a tree, lived a small red bird. More than anything, Red Bird loved to sing. From the first light of dawn to the last light of dusk, her songs filled the air. They drew turtle from his shell, urged giraffe to reach the high tree tops, and cooled crocodile’s sun-baked skin.
One night, in her walnut-tree nest, Red Bird lay awake in the silence and began to wonder. What lay beyond the spreading limbs of her leafy home? What other kinds of birds sang on the fringes of the vast, green jungle? She knew she would not be happy until she found the answers to her questions.
The next morning, Red Bird chirped a cheerful good bye song to her friends and flitted far from home, deep into the jungle. It was a hot morning, and Red Bird soon grew thirsty. She stopped at a pool to drink. From high above, a song soared through the morning air. Red Bird looked up and saw a bird with wings as green as an emerald. Its voice trilled and rippled, floating like a feather through the leafy canopy. Red Bird was amazed. “I never knew such a beautiful song existed,” she thought. The emerald bird stopped its song and soared into the sky. Red Bird followed, but it flew out of sight.
Soon, she grew hungry and stopped to nibble some seeds scattered on the ground. From high above, a song cascaded over her like a rain shower. Red Bird looked up and saw a bird with wings as blue as a sapphire. Its song shimmered slow and sad, falling like water on the dry ground. Red Bird was amazed. “This song is even more beautiful than that of the first bird,” she thought. The sapphire bird stopped its song and soared into the sky. Red Bird followed, but it flew out of sight.
Soon, she grew tired and settled on a branch to rest. From high above, a song glowed like the sunrise. Red Bird looked up and saw a bird with wings as yellow as gold. Its song boomed high and strong, bursting over the afternoon sky. “This song is even more beautiful than the second bird,” she thought. The golden bird stopped its song and soared off into the sky.
This time, Red Bird did not follow.
The sun began to set, and Red Bird felt sadness creep over her as she considered the three birds. “All my life, I have been the one to bring joy with my songs. I thought I was special. But what if my songs are as common as the clicking of the praying mantis or the chatter of baboons?” she wondered.
Gray clouds rolled in, and raindrops tumbled from the sky. Red Bird sang a sad song. She no longer wished to see the wonders of the deep green jungle. Smoothing her dripping feathers, she flitted toward home.
A familiar voice drifted to Red Bird from far below. It was Old Hippo.
“Red Bird, oh Red Bird, where are you?” he called to the empty air. “My eyes are sleepy, but I cannot sleep. Please sing me your twilight song, so I may rest and dream of cool trees in the morning.”
Red Bird flew down to Hippo. “You must not mean me.” she said. “My song is common. This jungle is full of dazzling songs, sung by birds with voices as pure as the morning dew.”
Hippo opened his wide mouth in a wise smile. “That may be true, Red Bird, but of all those birds, only your song can bring me sleep on a sultry summer night. I could travel to the far edges of this jungle and find no other voice so sweet. Yours is the song I wish to hear tonight.”
Red Bird thought about the song of the three birds. She thought about her walnut-tree home, about Hippo, and all the animals who loved her song. Then, she looked up at the stars sprinkled like diamonds across the wide sky and began to sing.
Hippo sighed and sank lower into his watery bed. “Thank you, Red Bird,” he said. “That was even more beautiful than I remember.”