Reviewed by Ben Harris
Kites is a deceptively simple tale of a boy, new to the neighbourhood, trying to join in with those around him that will charm, engage and prompt deep thinking in young readers.
David has just moved to Fivehills, a town where kites seem to be ‘the thing’ for the children to make and play with. As his grandfather was a mechanic, David decides to create his own magnificent kite to join in with everyone else. He crafts a fantastic model…only to find it will not work. Along the way, other children give their input on what makes a great kite, but alas, there is still something missing. When David discovers his grandfather’s feather under his pillow, his hope and determination are renewed. His final kite draws together everything he has learned from the other children and his grandfather but still has his stamp on the design. The last flight is a magnificent success and David has found his place in Fivehills.
There is real poetry in this story. I love the way that the tale shows children the vital balance between ‘doing it your way’ and the necessity of listening to experience. Although David desperately wants to create something that is ‘his’ and to be seen by the other children as an expert (so as to ‘fit in’), it is only when he acknowledges that he doesn’t know everything (yet!) that his creation works. Equally, the last kite is still determinedly ‘David’s’ with a design that only he could have made. The absent grandfather figure shows children that there comes a time where ultimately we are ‘on our own’. Yet, in our hearts, we can draw on the knowledge that our families, friends and previous accomplishment can drive our perseverance towards our own goals. By that way, progress is made.
Mention must, of course, be made of the beautiful illustrations by Oamul Lu. The outdoors scenes have a wonderfully brisk feel with trees slightly leaning and the brush strokes emphasizing the whirl and dynamism of the wind. The children of Fivehills are depicted as being from many different ethnic backgrounds. Children will identify themselves in this book as well as appreciate that we must all work together to accomplish our goals. The endpapers tell the message succinctly too: I love it when the design of the book is so carefully considered!
Children in Infant classes will delight in David’s determination and creativity: they will no doubt see themselves very clearly in his workshop mode! With the support of an adult they will appreciate its more profound messages – Could David have done this on his own? What did the other children do to help him? Why did finding the feather help David?
Kites is an utterly delightful story.