Genre: Birds / Better Life / Friends
Year Published: 1986
Year Read: 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
After reading many Caldecott Medal award winning books, I stumbled upon this rare gem called “Hey, Al” which won a Caldecott Medal and was written by Arthur Yorinks along with illustrations by Richard Egielski. Get prepared for one surreal yet adventurous journey!
Meet Al, the janitor and his faithful dog, Eddie. They live in a single room on the West Side and they do everything together. So, every thing is fine, right?
Al and Eddie’s life is miserable as they live in a small and cramped apartment and they are barely making it in life. One day, however, a large bird comes to their apartment and tells them about a place where things are so much better than the life they are currently living in. Al and Eddie then decided to let the large bird take them to this mysterious place and it turns out to be a beautiful island located up in the sky. Everything was going great for Al and Eddie as they were living the perfect paradise that they dreamed of, but it turns out that their “paradise” comes with a price…
Wow! I cannot believe that I had never read this book before! I had heard so many good things about this book and how popular it was, but I never had the chance to read about it until now! Arthur Yorinks had done an excellent job at writing this story as this story is extremely imaginative and surreal at the same time! I loved the fact that Arthur Yorinks approached the theme of “the grass is greener on the other side” and gave it a more fantasy spin on it as it has both Al and Eddie traveling to a magical island to gain a better life from the one they have, only to realize that it does come with a price. Richard Egielski’s illustrations are what truly sold this book to me. I loved how gorgeous Richard Egielski’s illustrations are, especially of the scenes of Al and Eddie going to the island in the sky as there are many images of luscious trees and different types of birds inhabiting the island. I also loved how realistic and colorful the illustrations are as they bring a sense of tranquility and beauty to the story.
Parents should know that the scene where Al and Eddie start turning into birds might be scary for smaller children. Parents might want to reassure their children that the story is purely fantasy and that it would not happen in real life. The story was merely trying to show readers about how the theme of “the grass is greener on the other side” can come with consequences in a more fantastical way.
Overall, “Hey, Al” is a fantastic book that teaches children about how sometimes the “grass is not always greener on the other side” and that being satisfied with what you have is important. I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since the scenes of Al and Eddie transforming might frighten some children.
Review is also on: Rabbit Ears Book Blog