Can You Fathom That It’s 63 Years Since Don Freeman’s Pigeon Friends Named Sid and Madge Found Their Happy Home in That City By the Bay?
Fly High Fly Low
By Don Freeman
I recently blogged on a Halloween selection called “Tilly Witch by Don Freeman, and lest I give this creative picture book artist and writer short shrift, here is a complete blog about his book from 1957, “Fly High Fly Low.”
Dads are usually tasked with finding the perfect home for their families and here, in Don Freeman’s Caldecott Honor Book Fly High Fly Low, Dad just happens to be a pigeon named Sid who is also very “choosy” about finding the perfect home for his mate Midge and family.
In this case, the perfect home happens to be in the beautiful Bay City of San Francisco and the place that he opts to call home is in the loop of a huge “B” on an electric sign, spelling out “BAY HOTEL” high on a skyscraper overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.
Sid attempts living in many other letters of the alphabet, but somehow the lower case of the letter “B” has a special appeal for him. The wide walls of the letter “B” keep the wind away plus the additional benefit of the electric lights surrounding the letter “B” that come on at night, keep the family warm and cozy. You picked well, Dad.
Life hums along with breakfast provided by Mr. Hi Lee, a daily visitor throwing out crumbs in Union Square Park from a paper sack. Life is good for the pigeon pair. But whoa Nellie, with Sid away on a typically misty morning, the building seems to sway and Midge imagines an earthquake!
But it’s no earthquake, but earth shattering nonetheless when the home and hearth is moving – literally. The “B” is being taken down! But where is the letter B being transported and will Sid find the relocation spot?
The perfect solution and neat ending to the story is provided unknowingly by the men operating the machinery as they spy Midge and the nest of two eggs nestled in the second letter of the alphabet. They truck the “B” to a nearby bakery, which happens to be called, “BLUMZ BAKERY” and retro fit it above the store. Hey, what are the odds? Unfortunately for Sid, he comes upon the empty scaffolding, where hours before, the “BAY CITY HOTEL” sign sat.
As the fog rolls in and changes to rain, Sid flies about the city searching wildly for Midge and his family. Wonder of wonders, Mr. Hi Lee happens upon Sid and talks his avian friend into going around the corner to a bakery where they can get something for Sid to eat.
Guess what bakery they’re going to? And guess who sits in the “B” atop the bakery? Yup, it’s Midge and Sid’s eggs, happily ensconced in their new digs. And guess what? The very birds that jealously accused Sid of being too “choosy” in his selection of a home, now say, “ Oh, those lucky birds! Sid certainly did know what he was doing when he chose that letter B.”
Don Freeman salutes every father’s unflagging effort to find a perfect home for his family. Here, in one of the most charming of urban settings, critics agree as Publishers Weekly says:
“The creator of Corduroy gives the city a charming colored-pencil tribute with portraits of glowing sunsets, the Golden Gate Bridge spanning the shimmering bay, and a trolley car cresting a hill.”
If you’ve never been there and you want to share a “bird’s eye” view of this magical city by the Bay, take a child by the hand, and read this charming book of how to be at home in a “B” at a bakery by the Bay.
Now, say that three times fast, please!
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