Fly High Fly Low


Written & Illustrated by Don Freeman

Fly High Fly Low is the love story of two pigeons named Sid and Midge (both conveniently rhyme with “pidg” as in pigeon). The story takes place in San Francisco, California. Freeman includes many famous and recognizable attributes of San Fransico in the vista-view illustrations, including: cable cars, Golden Gate bridge, fog, ChinaTown, and an substantial Chinese-America population.  I sense that it is likely contemporary to the time in which it was written and illustrated in the mid fifties, however I think children could think it was contemporary  because there aren’t too many dating features in the illustrations.

Sid and Midge make a nest in a big little B of a sign. Even though this story was written in the fifties, Freeman portrays their relationship as balanced and equal gender roles – Sid and Midge are equal partners, he describes the pair as being “side by side” (p. 15). We can imagine them as equals as they seem to defy stereotypical gender roles by taking turns sitting on their nest of eggs and working together to build their nest. One day while Sid is out looking for food, the sign of which their nest is built starts to be taken down. The rest of the story is Sid’s desperate attempts to locate Midge and their soon-to-hatch little ones.

The hero of the story is an older Asian-American man named Mr. Hi Lee. He is very friendly, and regularly helps the pigeons by feeding them in the park. He is portrayed as a professional through his dress, and portrayed positively through his demeanor. African Americans are only portrayed via one of the workers taking down the sign – countered by two white co-workers – all are friendly characters and portrayed positively. Although Midge is portrayed equally despite her female gender, human woman are  never portrayed as working in the illustrations – perhaps this is attributable to a sign of times.

As in Freeman’s other words like Corduroy or Manuelo the Playing Mantis, the medium used is a color pencil with texture created through the use of cross-hatching techniques. The quality of the language of the text is typical to Freeman’s signature style. His use of similes and other figures of speech (“Like a rampaging flock of sheep, the fog came surging straight toward him!” p. 33) make the descriptions come to life. In the following excerpts, he employs the use of unconventional syntactical structures were the verbs are inverted to the ends of the sentences (“But no, not a feather did he find.” p. 32, “He looked around on all sides, but not a track of his sign did he see.” p. 30, “He looked high and he looked low, but not a sign of his letter did he spy.” p. 31).

The colorful illustrations and the simple lose-and-found story line with a serendipitous, happy ending appeals to children, yet I think adults would also find this tale charming as well.


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