A Song for Lorkie

Dean Bowen & Jennifer Castles
AUD $29.99
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A joyful, optimistic picture book about a bird finding his place in the world and the song in his heart, featuring the distinctive, colourful world of one of Australia's finest contemporary artists.

Lorkie was a Roofbird. His best friend was Brian, and they had been friends since they were eggs.

They lived in the Valley of Roofs, where every bird had a song to sing except Lorkie. Lorkie couldn't sing, until he found a new home in the middle of the Argy-Bargy roundabout.

Brilliant pictures from internationally acclaimed artist Dean Bowen harmonise perfectly with Jennifer Castles' sweet and surprising text in this delightful book for children and parents to read aloud together.

Author bio:

Dean Bowen is an Australian artist based in Melbourne. He has been exhibiting paintings, bronze sculpture and prints for over twenty years and his works are represented in major public and private collections. He has held solo exhibitions in Australia, France, Japan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Jennifer Castles is a writer, editor and actor who lives in Brunswick in Melbourne. Her other books include Tiny, with Steve Otton, and Ned Kelly's Last Days, with Alex C. Castles.

Category: Picture books
ISBN: 9781742377186
Awards: Short-listed CBCA Book of the Year, Crichton Award for New Illustrators, 2012 2012 AU
Publisher: A&U Children's
Imprint: A & U Children
Pub Date: September 2011
Page Extent: 32
Format: Hard Cover
Age: 3 - 6
Subject: Picture books

Teachers reviews

A Song for Lorkie is an easy read picture book. Lorkie is a Roofbird who doesn’t like living in the safe rooftop environment with his family, but longs for the hustle and bustle of the busy road.
He finally gains the courage to leave the rooftop to pursue a new life living near the road. At first it is not all that he expected as he feels alone but soon gains a mate so that he can start a family of his own.

At first glance Lorkie may seem like a simple picture book. As you look deeper, though, this book may be used as a starter for, many discussion and writing activities. Themes such as family, friendships, leaving home and making your own way in life to name a few. There are also the possibilities for using the wonderful illustrations for Art activities as well. Lorkie would also provide the opportunity for poetry writing as children can write their own ‘song’ just like the birds do. An enjoyable book.
Kathy Hotz, Hercules Road State School, QLD

Amongst the Roofbirds, living in the Valley of Roofs, are Lorkie and his siblings and his best mate, Brian, and his sister, Sweetheart. As they come of age, each bird had to make up his or her own song. The only birds who were of age and haven’t yet done so are Lorkie as he can’t think of one, and Sweetheart, who has no voice. When Lorkie decides he wants a change and leaves to live a “loud and dangerous” life instead of his quiet, peaceful existence, he goes to live in the middle of the Argy-Bargy roundabout. Almost immediately, he finds his own song, along with his happiness at being in his new home on busy and exciting Road. After a while, however, he becomes lonely and heads back to his old home. Although he enjoys his visit, he quickly realises where he needs to live in order to be truly happy.

A simple tale of coming of age and finding one’s way in the world, this is delightfully illustrated with stylised, vibrant pictures. The text could be used with younger children in discussing safe places to live. For older children, it could be used when discussing the concept of making one’s own decisions and way in the world, perhaps even as a pairing with Libby Gleeson’s I Am Thomas. The resolution could also be used as a discussion starter when talking about family and relationships.
Jo Schenkel, Pilgrim School, SA

A Song for Lorkie is a sweet story that will capture the hearts of young children and adults alike. Dean Bowen’s simplistic illustrations of birds, houses, buildings and roads, help depict a colourful Melbourne city atmosphere. Lorkie is a Roofbird who longs to find his own song to sing. He lives in the Valley of Roofs and on every roof lives a bird or two. There is Lorkie, his best friend Brian, his sister Sweetheart and Lorkie’s three noisy brothers: Corkie, Forkie, Storkie and his 3 noisy sisters: Porkie, Hawkie and Deedle-eedle. Each bird has their own song, except for Sweetheart “who didn’t have a voice and Lorkie who hadn’t thought of one yet”. Living on the roof makes Lorkie feel sad and stuck; it’s hard for him to belt out his own tune in a safe and quiet neighbourhood. Secretly, Lorkie longs to live near the road, at the Argy-Bargy roundabout where it’s busy, noisy and dangerous. He can’t resist the thrill of chasing cars and trucks, and living life in the fast lane makes him feel free. He knows he has to leave the Valley of Roofs, but how can he tell Brian and will Lorkie ever find his own song?

What a delightful story, with a strong message of love, friendship and acceptance. The main theme being that there is a place in this world for everyone. Sometimes, you need to take a risk, leave the family nest and make a fresh start. If you are true to yourself then you will eventually find peace, love and happiness. In the classroom, A Song for Lorkie is a great way to create artworks that use earthy colours, geometrical shapes and simplistic line work. The teacher could encourage the class to make a series of city scenes. The materials used to create these images could be cut out coloured paper images of birds, buildings, roads, etc pasted onto a watercolour background.
Rhiannon Neate, VIC

Lorkie had a dream, a dream that others could not understand, yet it felt right to him. When things feel right and are right for you many wonderful things happen. Lorkie followed his heart to have what he wanted yet he was lonely as roof birds need to have a friend. Have you ever had to follow your heart to make a hard decision?  Everyone has as soul mate and while Lorkie was different and lived differently to other roofbirds, Sweetheart cared for Lorkie and wanted to be with him. Sweetheart was different to the other birds as her eyes did not work, Lorkie was different as he was not happy with the normal expectation of a roofbird. This book will show young children that you can be happy and challenge things to live your dream.

I read this book to my grade Prep class and one girl said “If you don’t like something the way it is, you can do it differently or change it”. I believe this is exactly what this book is about. It empowers children with the belief that they do have choices and decisions to change or challenges things in their life. We are talking a lot about justice in our classroom and how we can make things better and the one thing that keeps coming up is making the decision to make a difference or change things. IS that not what Lorkie did for himself? I also love the pictures by Dean Bowen. What a great art lesson that came out of this book. The children drew pictures of the roof tops or busy road in oil pastels on a large piece of black cardboard. Then using colourful Kinder squares, cut out roofbirds to paste on the drawn roofs and trees. The results were beautiful.
Stacey Lamb, St Bernards Primary School, Wangaratta, VIC

A stunning picture book with relevance for children of all ages, A Song for Lorkie tells the story of a group of Roofbirds living in the safe and quiet Valley of Roofs, going about their daily lives the way all good Roofbirds should. The Roofbirds have their own special song, except for Lorkie, because he has not yet been able to think of one and the sweet bird called Sweetheart because she doesn’t have a voice.

Lorkie is different from the other Roofbirds; he longs to experience the exhilaration of life near the thundering highways and he is torn between his desire to live in harmony with the other Roofbirds and his need to be true to himself. He moves to the trees of the Argy Bargy Roundabout and feeling fizzy and free for the first time, he finally finds in his heart, the song he was meant to sing. With freedom, however, comes loneliness and with no one to share his new found happiness he reluctantly returns to the Valley of Roofs and the company of the other Roofbirds. Feeling sad and stuck he realises that lasting happiness means being true to what is in his heart and so he returns to his home in the trees of the Argy Bargy Roundabout, finding as he does, another Roofbird who is different from the others, but perfect for him.

The story imparts deep and meaningful messages without becoming preachy, while at the same time encouraging exploration of a range of topics such as personal values, diversity and differing ability, differences and similarities, family and friends, emotions and feelings, sound and music as well as environmental issues such as housing, transport and flora and fauna. The illustrations and artwork lend themselves to exploration of various creative mediums using colour, shape and form; the list is almost limitless depending on the age and developmental range of the children involved. This delightful picture book will become a treasured addition to all home, preschool or school libraries.
Lyndall Castillo, Noah’s Ark Preschool, NSW

A Song for Lorkie is a vibrant new book that provides a range of classroom opportunities. The book tells the story of Lorkie, a bird who is unhappy living as he has always done, and who longs for something more. Despite the fact that his family and friends do not understand his choice, Lorkie sets off to make a life for himself elsewhere. The book provides a stimulus for discussions about friendships and relationships, about appreciating and celebrating differences between ourselves and others, and about daring to do what is best for us, despite what those around us might think. It is a book about belonging and about finding our own place in the world.

The text lends itself well to the development of students’ vocabulary; younger students in particular may find it beneficial to discuss words such as warbled and bellowed, and from here, move to finding other synonyms for different words and creating word banks of these, or developing a class thesaurus. Older students could develop the story further, perhaps focusing on Lorkie’s loneliness when living alone on the roundabout, and writing a first-person fictional account from Lorkie’s perspective, a letter home to the Roofbirds, or maybe a piece from the point of view of Sweetheart or Brian, outlining the characters’ responses to Lorkie’s decision to leave.

A Song for Lorkie is a brilliant choice of book for teaching visual literacy. Children will enjoy looking at and discussing the vibrant, colourful pictures that accompany the text. The book could also serve as a stimulus for a Visual Arts lesson or even a unit. Older students could research illustrator and Australian artist Dean Bowen and explore his unique style and other works created by him. Students could also create their own artworks, perhaps to accompany the story, taking inspiration from Bowen’s work. I look forward to using this book in the classroom, as it enables the teacher to draw from it a wide range of enjoyable, rich tasks to enhance student learning.
Rebekah Bellino, NSW

The simple bold graphics in A Song for Lorkie make this book instantly appealing. With its bright colours and often more than a page spread, the illustrations dominate this book. Dean Bowen’s use of black in many of his illustrations create the opposite effect of dreary, as the black appears to highlight the other colours letting them reach their full potential. 

A Song for Lorkie is about being different and reaching our potential even though we come from the same beginnings. It is about growing up and having to make our own way in the world. Everyone in Lorkie’s family had their own individual song to sing. But Lorkie still hadn’t found his own song. Even Brian, his best friend from egg days, had his own song. Unlike his three noisy brothers and three noisy sisters, who wanted to stay in their familiar surroundings living on the rooftops, Lorkie wanted more. Lorkie was different. He had a secret love for the road and he dreamed of living in that loud, dangerous environment. He knew in his heart he would never be happy unless he followed his dream. So ‘Argy-Bargy Roundabout’ became his new home and Lorkie knew he had made the right decision as ‘his’ song immediately came into his head. But his happiness was short lived as he realised the clickers were not enough to keep him company. He missed his family and friends. He returned to the rooftops but he knew he didn’t belong there anymore. On returning to Argy-Bargy Roundabout, Lorkie’s loneliness was resolved when he noticed a ‘silent’ bird in a nearby tree. ‘Sweetheart’ didn’t mind the noisy surroundings as she was deaf so she happily decided to keep Lorkie company.

In the classroom A Song for Lorkie would be a valuable inclusion for discussions on differences and the need for us to follow our dreams so that we can find fulfilment in life. Sometimes this requires some risk taking and thinking of other ways to go about things. But in the big picture of life, the books acclaims that there is a place for each of us in this world and it is up to ourselves to find our own happiness.
Jill Howard, ACT

Lorkie is a Roofbird but he prefers the noisy dangerous road environment. He has a sister called Sweetheart who is a silent bird. Every day the Rooflings would fly around and at night they would each sing their own song, with the exception of Sweetheart and Lorkie who didn’t have a song as yet. Lorkie found it harder and harder to stay a Roofbird preferring the road as it made him feel free, fast and dizzy. He knew he had to go. He made his new home in the middle of a roundabout and was so happy that a song came into his head. The only thing missing was company, so he went back to visit his friends but discovered he still preferred the Valley of the Roads. Upon returning he discovers something wonderful.

There are many ways this book can be used in the classroom. Obviously students could learn about Dean Bowen and look at his other works. Within the NZ Curriculum, it could be used to look at how students manage themselves, change and how they can adapt their circumstances. A Song for Lorkie also covers the other key competencies of relating to others and participation. It can challenge students to also think outside the square and to be an individual. It could also lead to a science session on bird life. The pictures complement the sweet tale beautifully and the layout is gorgeous with the font placed at the top of the page as a point of difference.
Kimberley Atkinson, Robertson Road School, New Zealand

Lorkie is one of several birds that make their home in the Valley of Roofs: a place of togetherness, safety and song. He has a friend, Brian. They’ve been best friends since they were eggs; and Brian has a gorgeous little sister called Sweetheart. Lorkie also has three sisters and three brothers. Their names all rhyme with Lorkie except for the last one: Deedle-eedle. If reading aloud to a class this would be a good teaching point: what does rhyme and what does not rhyme. Children will chuckle at the incongruous names. Life is good on the rooftops, but Lorkie has a secret. He loves the hustle-bustle excitement of the road. He loves the highway, and feels alive when racing cars and chasing trucks. His view of the roads is depicted as a fun place. The rooftops make him feel slow. Lorkie knows he has to leave, but how can he tell Brian? Brian views the roads as being extremely dangerous and the illustrations depict this in the cars with bonnets that look like crocodile jaws. This is part sweet love story and part about being true to oneself.  Bowen and Castles have gone away from the ‘freestyle’ approach of some modern picture books. This has a more traditional style with the text all in the same font in paragraphs; and the illustrations are delightful. Children of all ages will enjoy this. It worked for me.
Claire Cheeseman, Summerland Primary School, New Zealand

Deedle-eedle warbled prettily and Brian bellowed loud and proud, Sweetheart had no song and Lorkie did not have one yet. What was he to do? This warm and cheerful story is all about a Roofbird named Lorkie and his quest to find his place in the world and the song in his heart. Lorkie’s secret – Road made him free, fast and fizzy. Roof made him sad, slow and stuck. Lorkie knew he had to leave but how could he tell his best friend Brian? Lorkie couldn't sing, until he found a new home in the middle of the Argy-Bargy roundabout. Lorkie relishes the noise and quickly moves into the lollipop trees. Life isn’t the same without friends though… Lorkie has some tough life decisions to make – find himself and his own voice, go out on his own and follow his heart or stay trapped in a place that is familiar and comfortable but that does not make him truly happy? 

This gorgeous picture book would be suitable for Prep through to perhaps Year 3 or 4 and offers some wonderful teaching opportunities around figurative language eg: alliteration – Road made him free, fast and fizzy. Roof made him sad, slow and stuck. The illustrations and text allow opportunities around fracturing the text or re-creating a class version based upon some local bird species. Students could have fun in recording their own song versions on MP3 and narrating their own version on EasiSpeak microphones. Using digital images of birds or taking photos and then uploading the images into a great iPad app called ComicStrip and adding their own captions of Lorkie and Brian talking. The ideas around innovating this text are endless. Another great website is Blabberize where you could upload a bird image and then make him talk by recording your own voice – students would have loads of fun creating their very own talking/singing Lorkie!  An endearing story with whimsical, colourful illustrations bound to capture the attention of any lower school student.
Lisa Noonan, Sandy Strait State School, Hervey Bay, QLD

A Song for Lorkie is a beautiful story. The illustrations are very colourful, creative and imaginative. Making this story a pleasure to read especially y to a class of five year olds, who love big pictures. A Song for Lorkie is about a roof bird called Lorkie, who has a best friend Brian. Brian and Lorkie have been friends since eggs. Lorkie loves where he lives, he likes Brian, he likes the clickers that buzz around and he really enjoys watching the rooflings hop about practicing to make nests. However he loves the road, it makes him feel free. The rooftops make Lorkie feel a little sad and he feels stuck. Lorkie decides to go and makes a new home smack bang in the middle of the Argy-Bargy roundabout among the lollipop trees. There is one thing missing: he is lonely. One day Lorkie notices something in the tree; it is a very silent bird. A very sweet bird. Sweetheart, Brian’s sister, is waiting for him.

This is a beautiful story. It is very well written and it has a great storyline. The children really enjoyed the adventure that Lorkie went on to find his new home and were happy when Lorkie found Sweetheart. I really liked the author’s choice of words to describe the characters, especially the Argy Bargy roundabout; the children laughed at this. After reading this story the class and I decided to make a big city out of boxes and lollipop-looking trees. Each child drew their own bird and placed the bird in a lollipop tree. We also discussed the differences of the city and the country too. We will further discuss how it would feel to move or leave someone special at home. I would recommend this story to children aged 5 and up. It was a great book.
Claire Evans, QLD

“Lorkie was a Roofbird.” So begins A Song For Lorkie; sparse text alongside a beautiful bold stylistic partial image of Lorkie covering one and a half pages. Lorkie lives with his noisy brothers and sisters Corkie, Forkie, Storkie, Porkie, Hawkie and Deedle-eedle. (Children love the sounds of these names and the twist at the end). He has a best friend Brian. They all live happily in the Valley of Roofs, all that is, except Lorkie. He hankers for the "great thundering highway" where he can race and chase cars and trucks.

Road made him feel free
and fast and fizzy.
Roof made him feel sad
and slow and stuck.

Consequently, Lorkie moves to Argy-Bargy roundabout, and is so happy that a song comes to his head without him even trying. He had not been able to create a song in the Valley of Roofs. However, his new life is not as happy as he thought it would be. He is alone, with only Clickers for company. Travelling back to the Valley of Roofs doesn’t cure this loneliness, only makes it more real. He returns to his roundabout to find a surprise waiting for him in a tree. The story ends with him and ‘Sweetheart’ building the most amazing house you’ve ever seen. The final illustration is ironic, because the nest is actually a roof of a house on a branch!

The layout of this book is traditional, with text and illustrations quite separate. The images are big, bright and bold, effectively using a bold colour palette on mostly black, they strongly support the story. These illustrations do as much to tell the story vividly, as does the text. The patterns and ‘texture’ on the various birds is evocative of their characters. The images reveal how Brian and Lorkie view their different environments. Brian finds the roundabout a frightening place – cars on this page have elongated shapes, huge crocodile jaws and are all black and brown in colour. Lorkie’s view is totally different – bright, circular, fluid and colourful.
The Prep students I read the book to loved the illustrations. One asked “Why are the birds bigger than the houses?” We talked about it, and one clever little Prep answered with, “It’s because the book is about the birds and not the houses.” Another student said, “She (Deedle-eedle) looks like she’s got an egg inside her.” One answered, “It’s a feather!” Another, “It’s a wing!” Maybe they’re all right!
Caren Wyngaard, Mountain District Christian School, VIC