Title: You Nest Here with Me
Author: Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Publisher: Boyds Mill Press
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Audience: Ages 3 – 8 years
Summary: “My little nestling, time for bed, “says the mother as she carries her daughter, whose arms are stretched out as if in flight, to bed and settles down with this book and the refrain, “You nest here with me.” There’s an owl on the child’s bed and her window looks out on a bird house so it’s not surprising that the nesting habits of different birds (14 of them) will be used as a contrast to the house of the mother and child. “Pigeons nest on concrete ledges, Catbirds nest in greening hedges, Tiny wrens, in shoreline sedges, you nest here with me.” The nests, says the poem, are a safe place for baby birds to grow and learn. “So till you’re big as big can be…You’ll nest right here in our house with me” and a nest-like frame surrounds the mother and sleeping child. The illustrations of nests are an important part of the story. Two pages of facts about the birds and their eggs are included at the book’s end.
Literary elements at work in the story: Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, a mother and daughter team, have written a poem, with a simple refrain speaking love and security at bedtime. The book, in addition, is a treasure of natural history. The Yolen/Stemple family bird watches. Each bird and nest is depicted in accurate detail by award winning artist, Melissa Sweet, with soft colors using watercolors, gouache, and mixed media. These deserve examination beyond bed time. Poem and pictures are a winning combination.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? A mother and a daughter are the center of this book. There are father birds in the illustrations, but no male in sight in the human house. The child’s security rests in being with her mother. Their shared presence makes the nest. Can a father read this book to a child? It may take some discussion to make this a bit more inclusive. The pigeons, eagles, and cardinals set a good example.
Theological Conversation Partners: Nest, whether verb or noun, connotes security, care, belonging, nurture. Though God is not mentioned in this book, these are words that Christians associate with the Covenant Love of God. Birds have a significant place in the Bible. Jesus calls us to look at them as a model of trust in God’s care. (Matt. 6:26) He asserts that not a sparrow is forgotten in God’s sight (Luke 12:6) as he encourages his followers to have no fear. One of the loveliest pictures in the Bible is of a sparrow and a swallow nesting in peace and security at the altar of God in the Jerusalem Temple. (Ps. 84). As Psalm 104 describes God’s creation of a universe that is marvelously interrelated, there is a place for birds in the high cedars of Lebanon, and a home for the stork in the fir trees, safely above predators. When talking with children about trust in God and security through the night, birds are good illustrative material. The nest is more than a place, it is the locus of a relationship-for both birds and humans. In God’s plan, parents care for children physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You Rest Here with Me conveys this beautifully This would not be a good book for a child who has no mother and there will remain questions about children who do not have parental love and care as well as dead birds found in the yard. Acknowledging these need not negate the reality of the security of God’s love shown through home and parents and may lead to some positive action in behalf of both children and birds in need. (Doing something in partnership with God is the best answer for children’s questions about suffering.)
Faith Talk Questions:
- If possible, read this book with a bird nest on hand. I once watched a group of children take a nest apart and try to put it together again. “God taught them how,” said one child as they failed again and again.
- What book are the mother and daughter reading?
- Find the pages that show a father bird helping with the nest.
- Find the egg that doesn’t belong in the picture of the cardinals.
- How is your home like a bird’s nest?
- How is the mother bird like a mother or father?
- What did Jesus say about birds. Get someone to help you look up Matthew 6:25 and Luke 12:6.
- Psalm 84 tells about an unusual place that birds have built nests. Find Psalm 84. Why would a bird build a nest there? Does the Psalmist think God’s house is a secure and happy place?
This review is written by regular contributor and alumna Virginia Coffin Thomas.
You Nest Here With Me by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.