Best known for challenging assumptions about what subject matter is suitable in novels for young adults, Melvin Burgess has created other kinds of texts which similarly push boundaries in books for younger readers. This chapter will focus on his picturebook, The Birdman (2000), illustrated by Ruth Brown.1 The narrative is about a boy called Jarvis, who, seeing a man selling birds, wants to buy them all and set them free. In the end Jarvis buys only one, a robin. However, enchanted by the robin’s song he keeps the bird rather than releasing it as he promised. A year later, when the robin is nearly dead, the bird seller returns. He transforms Jarvis into a robin and the bird into a doppelgänger of Jarvis. The next morning, the new Jarvis releases the robin, who, desperate to be transformed back into human form, seeks out the birdman, only to be refused release from his new shape. Whilst this narrative may sound very straightforward from a brief summary (the back cover of the book simply proclaims the story to be about ‘the power of temptation over conscience’), the interplay of text and image, plus the ambiguity within the written text, make it much more complex and undermine such a straightforward reading.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Transformation, Text and Genre in The Birdman
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number