Mimicking the classic cumulative nursery rhyme “This Is the House That Jack Built,” The Nest That Wren Built is the first picture book by author Randi Sonenshine. It tells the story of how Papa Wren constructs a nest for his growing family. After building the nest, Papa guards it while “chirping a mirthful song to the sky.” Once the eggs have been laid, he hunts for food. At 14 days old, the fledgling birds are ready to fly from their remarkably crafted home, high up in a tree.
Sonenshine’s text is full of vivid, sensory images (“This is the moss, softer than suede”), and her seemingly simple narrative subtly works on multiple levels. The Nest That Wren Built may be a book about wrens, but it’s also about the patient, tender care that parents take when they provide for their offspring. Illustrator Anne Hunter (Possum and the Summer Storm, Cricket Song, Where’s Baby?) makes the warm, cozy nest the consistent focus of these illustrations, which are laid out on cream-colored pages. The ink and colored pencil illustrations appropriately feature a muted, earth-tone palette, and there’s a distinct sense that Hunter has constructed her drawings as carefully as Papa constructs his nest. Make sure to look closely to see Hunter’s crosshatching, which creates effective texture and shading.
Nothing about the wrens and their work is anthropomorphized or made cute. Instead, Sonenshine’s bouncy text is filled with facts about how wrens construct nests. Young readers will enjoy spotting the other wild animals that pop up to watch the wrens, as well as the creature who repurposes the nest to serve as his own home at the close of this endearing and informative story.