Growing up, I had the best of both worlds when it came to stories. I had Dr. Seuss and P.D. Eastman books being read to me, and I had some of the greatest animated films ever made on VHS — The Lion King, The Fox and the Hound, The Little Mermaid, etc. If I’m being honest, I (and everyone my age) was spoiled. We were surrounded by quality entertainment, something I feel isn’t as present for today’s youth.
I admit that this could be me partaking in the classic “Back in my day” speech, but I honestly don’t think children’s entertainment is held to the same standard it once was. That’s not to say that there aren’t great books or movies out now, but it is to say that I am hoarding all my copies of Put Me in the Zoo and Oh, the Places You’ll Go! so that my kids will have them. All of this brings me to my recommendation for Hollywood’s next feature-length adaptation: Are You My Mother? By P.D. Eastman.
For those of you who haven’t read it — if you exist — the story is exactly what it sounds like. In anticipation of her soon-to-arrive child, a mother bird flies off to find a worm. While she’s gone, her baby bird hatches to find an empty nest. In an attempt to find his mother, the baby bird falls from the nest and begins his search. Along the way, the bird runs into a kitten, a hen, a dog, a cow, a car, a boat, a plane, and a
crane snort, all of whom he asks, “Are you my mother?” Some respond, others don’t, but either way, the baby bird gets the message.
To spoil the ending, the crane takes the baby bird and places him back in his nest just in time for mom to return with a worm. Sweet, right? I think so. I also think it would make for a fun animated film. First of all, the baby bird in this book is freakin’ adorable, which always helps. But more importantly, this is a classic story that could easily be stretched out to fill an hour and a half. Think Finding Nemo but on land and with the baby doing the searching instead of the parent. Throw in some Dory-like humor, and I’m in.
And with it being an adaptation, there’s obviously the opportunity to add a few more plot points. Maybe the baby bird takes a break to grab some lunch at a local diner where he meets another orphaned baby bird. This one’s name is Josh, and he’s been on his own for months, which means he’s got a bit of a tough-guy persona. He thinks the baby bird — whom he decides to call Pete — should accept that his mother doesn’t want him. Of course, it’s not true, and Pete isn’t one to give into peer pressure. The two set off on a journey together.
Along the way, they stop to take a quick bath when they run into Sharlene, a baby duck who has lost her way. She joins their gang as the supportive, kind voice of reason. And with every animal Pete approaches, their gang grows, until finally, he’s found himself a family. However, Pete still can’t shake the notion that his mother is worried about him. He wanders off, upset that he still isn’t happy. He misses his mom. And yes, this is the part of the movie that will make you cry.
Cut to the ending where Pete is reunited with his mother, and he introduces her to their new friends. Mama bird adopts Josh and Sharlene, and the new family settles into its new community of cats, dogs, cows, and even a snort.
The End. Now tell me: Would you take your kids to see this film?