Laurence Anholt and Jim Copplestone, Two Nests

Frances Lincoln, 2013. ISBN 978-1-84780-323-8

When Jim Copplestone and his partner split up, their chief concern was supporting their children. He drew a picture of a tree with himself and his partner waving from different nests in the same tree. Each kept a copy of the picture, and cut-out figures of the children. On change-over days they moved the figures from one nest to the other. This was the impetus for Two Nests, a sensitive picture book illustrated by Copplestone with text by Laurence Anholt.

The simple rhyming story tells of two birds, Betty and Paul, making a cosy nest in a cherry tree. Soon a baby bird becomes part of their loving family. But the nest gets crowded, and Paul and Betty squabble. They decide it’s best that Paul moves to another nest. Everyone cries. Betty sings to Baby Bird: ‘You had a home, now you have two, four little words, dear - we both love you.’ At first Baby Bird is a bit fluttery, but soon learns to fly back and forth between the nests. The happy ending sees Baby Bird flying in a rainbow right over the top of the tree.

This will be a reassuring book for young children experiencing family break-up, and enjoyable and enlightening for those lucky enough not to have been through this trauma. The grief that splitting up causes is fully acknowledged, but we also see that it can be overcome. There is an implicit but important message that no fault lies with children when parents separate, plus an explicit one that parents’ love and care for their children is in no way diminished just because they no longer live together. The illustrations are atmospheric and delightful. The family nest grows ever more cramped as the laundry and the dishes mount up. I do have a cavil though, and it relates to stereotyping: Betty is pink and pretty, and relies on Paul, who is blue, to build her a nest. Her nest is festooned with washing; Paul’s has a kite. It is Betty who cuddles Baby Bird and sings of love. What a shame. Nevertheless, a useful addition to pre-school book corners and school and public libraries.