How to Make a Bird cover


Shortlist year: 2021

Shortlist category: Children's literature

Published by: Walker Books Australia


From award-winning author Meg McKinlay and celebrated artist Matt Ottley comes a moving and visually stunning picture book that celebrates the transformative power of the creative process from inception through recognition to celebration and releasing into the world. We shadow the protagonist as she contemplates the blue print of an idea, collects the things that inspire from the natural world to shape a bird. And breathes life into it before letting it fly free. It shows how small things, combined with a little imagination and a steady heart, can transform into works of magic.

About the author

Meg  McKinlay

Meg McKinlay

Meg McKinlay is the author of a treasure trove of books ranging from picture books and young adult fiction through to poetry for adults. Raised in central Victoria, in a TV- and car-free household, Meg was a bookish kid, in love with words and excited by dictionaries. On the long and winding path to becoming a children's writer, she has worked a variety of jobs including swim instructor, tour guide, translator and teacher. Meg is now a full-time writer and lives near the ocean in Fremantle, Western Australia, where she is always busy cooking up more books.

About the illustrator

Matt Ottley

Matt Ottley

Matt Ottley is an internationally acclaimed and multi-award winning artist, working equally across the fields of literature, visual arts and music. Matt has a plethora of published picture books to his name and his awards include the CBCA Picture Book of the Year, the Queensland and NSW Premier's Awards for literature, the International IBBY Australia Illustrator Award, and he has also been previously shortlisted for the Australian Prime Minister's Literary Awards.

Judges’ comments

This exceptional picture book is a meditation on the creative process, an exemplar of how creativity and collaboration can transform the simplest of ideas. Its writer knows that in leaving space for the visuals to come, she cannot afford to waste a single word, her poetry complemented by a fine artist given license to add both breadth and focus to the words before him. 'How to Make a Bird' is a magnificent exhibition of treading the narrow line that separates restraint and creative freedom.

Meg McKinlay's words describing the process of making a bird from conception to animation to its bittersweet conclusion are, like all good poetry, about more than what they appear to be. And with the metaphor of creativity and personal growth established, Matt Ottley brings his full talent to bear, adding the most subtle detail and layers of storytelling in a way that elevates the experience of the character without being overbearing or didactic. The result is a book that does what all great art sets out to do—it establishes a contract with the reader: 'If you are prepared to invest and become a part of this collaboration, you will be richly rewarded.' And so it is, drawing the observer into a world that is whimsical without being sentimental, detailed without being cluttered, and effortlessly profound.

Beautifully written, stunningly illustrated and painstakingly designed, this book deserves to be enjoyed by everyone. Young children, early readers, students of poetry and art, the casual coffee-table reader—this book rewards anyone who cares to open it, be it for the first time or the hundredth.