Independent Publishers’ IPPY Award, Best Children’s Book, 2002
Aesop Accolade Book
This dream-like story of an enchanted prince—caught by a spell in the body of a green bird—begins with the introduction of nine curious sisters. Each has a different number of eyes, beginning with the oldest, who has nine, down to the youngest, with just one.
The green bird proposes marriage to Mirabel, the two-eyed sister. Though her siblings mock her and her mother forbids it, Mirabel’s steadfast vision sees past the bird to a handsome prince, and she marries him! One by one, the envious mother dispatches her other daughters to the green bird’s palace to spy out who he really is. They are overcome with the beauty of their sister’s palace, and by the power of a sleeping potion the prince has provided to Mirabel.
Only the littlest sister stays awake long enough to see the green bird sing in each window of the palace and then enter and change into a prince. Her discovery prompts the mother to set a cruel trap; Pájaro Verde is forced to leave on a long journey to sickness and oblivion. But Mirabel’s love seeks him out, even in the house of the sun and the moon, and in the end restores his marriage and his kingdom.
STARRED REVIEW: Fans of this master storyteller will recognize and appreciate the rich complexity of this traditional tale. In a postscript, Hayes tells readers that he created this story by combining many similar tales from the oral tradition of northern New Mexico. Those tales, in turn, bear kinship with the medieval tales of Spain. A girl named Mirabel (loosely translated as “Beautiful Sight”) is her mother’s only two-eyed daughter. Each of her eight sisters has a different number of eyes. One has nine, one has seven, another has four, and so on. When Mirabel accepts an offer of marriage from a beautiful green bird, the sisters and mother are scornful, for only she can see the true character of her suitor. Consumed by their curiosity, the siblings snoop around her new home and learn that the green bird is really an enchanted prince. Their jealous plots then cause the prince/bird to be injured and abandon his new wife. Mirabel searches high and low for her husband until she finds him and tends to his wounds. The reward for this loyalty and persistence is the traditional happy ending.
The plot offers many twists and turns and multiple folklore themes. The illustrator offers a realistic version of Hispanic beauty, as the illustrator used real-life models for his characters. The Spanish text is masterfully rendered and is given its own space on each page apart from the English. This is a true classic in the making and belongs on the shelves of every library and bookstore.
Gr. 2-4, younger for reading aloud. With lush romantic paintings that are both realistic and magical, this bilingual retelling of a New Mexican folktale combines many mythical themes of enchantment and transformation. The protagonist Mirabel is a brave, beautiful young woman who, despite her jeering sisters, marries a bird, saves him from evil and helps him become the prince he really is. Before the happy ending, however, the story cunningly twists and turns.
Even more compelling than Mirabel’s love story and heroic journey is the family spite. Mirabel has two eyes. But each of her eight sisters has a different number of eyes, from one to nine, and the picture show the monstrous sisters close-up, somehow gorgeous except for those extra eyes. In one unforgettable scene, the youngest sister is spying on the enchanted prince in the palace, her one huge eye poking through a hole in a sheet. A final note fills in the connections with the oral tradition from medieval Spain to New Mexico. Heroes and monsters, horror and romance: a great read-aloud.
Midwest Book Review
Pajaro Verde: The Green Bird is an enchanting bilingual English/Spanish fairy tale about many-eyed sisters and an enigmatic prince named Pajaro Verde. Illustrated with beautifully rendered and realistic color artwork of fabulous scenes and events, Pajaro Verde is an unforgettable picture book story for young readers and would be a welcome addition to any school or community library collection.
Derived from various oral traditions of medieval Spain, this tale is skillfully told by the author. A manipulative woman lives with her nine daughters, the oldest of whom has nine eyes while the second oldest has eight, and each of the remaining daughters has the number of eyes corresponding to her birth number. One day the daughter with two eyes meets a green bird claiming to be a prince under a spell. The bird asks the girl to marry him and live in his castle. She agrees. The prince warns her that if anyone comes to visit for the night, she must sprinkle the guest’s bed with sleepy water so they don’t wake up and see his transformation into a man each night. As each of her sisters come to visit, she complies, until the youngest daughter with one eye comes, and our two-eyed heroine fails to sprinkle the water. Her sister sees everything and tells her jealous family. The mother plots to kill the prince and take over his palace but luckily only succeeds in wounding him. Unfortunately the jealousy forces the prince away, and the heroine sets out on a journey to find and heal her prince. As the author states in an explanation of the story’s origins, even the youngest of children sit well through a reading of the book, perhaps due to the constantly changing themes and challenges present. This book, with large full-page illustrations, offers a positive morality lesson on the dangers of envy and greed.
School Library Journal
Lovely Mirabel comes from an unusual family. One of nine girls, she is the one with two eyes. The rest of her sisters range from being monocular to having nine eyes, so it is perhaps no surprise that the pájaro verde, the green bird, who is really a prince, decides to marry her. Asked to keep her husband’s transformation a secret, Mirabel follows his directions through seven sisterly visits, only to blow it on the eighth. She must then jump through hoops to restore and reclaim him. Hayes’ prose is unfailingly smooth and accomplished, both in English and in Spanish, and whether read or told. The illustrations are large, detailed, and imaginative: a sound match for the story. The just slightly shivery bird person, a cross between a quetzal and Mozart’s Papagano, is a bravura touch. Pair this story with George Dasent’s retelling of Peter Christen Asbjornsens’s Scandinavian tale East o’ the Sun, West o’ the Moon (Candlewick, 1992) for a cross-cultural look at a classic fairy-tale motif.
Caroline Yeryomenko, bilingual teacher
Hello! I am a second grade Spanish bilingual teacher in Pasco, Washington. Your stories and tapes have provided the ideal language experience and love of stories that my students need. We have done everything with your materials, including using them to perform puppet plays. This week I read PAJARO VERDE aloud in three or four sessions. I could have read it all in one long session because my students were pleading for more when I stopped. Their eyes lit up with each new turn of the plot. You should have heard the gasps and silences. Thank you, thank you, and we hope to meet you!
Joe Hayes, one of America’s best storytellers, has done it again. He tells another classical story, in English and Spanish, from New Mexico’s magical folklore, and he does so with mastery that only a master storyteller can do.
In a dream-like mood, this story tells us about an enchanted prince, who because of a spell, is caught in the body of a green bird. Mirabel is the heroine of the story and the only one with two eyes among sisters who have different numbers of eyes beginning with the oldest who had nine down to the youngest, who just has one. Mirabel marries the bird and saves him from evil, helping him become the prince he really is. Mexican artist Antonio Castro L. beautifully illustrates the book with assistance from his son Antonio Castro H. who helped with both the research and the illustrations. Highly recommended for children 10 years and older and Southwestern cultural studies.
Review of Texas Books
A Tale for Everyone
Storyteller Joe Hayes and illustrator Antonio Castro Lopez in collaboration with his son Antonio Castro H. capture the reader’s and listener’s attention immediately through text and illustration of this magical tale, Pajaro Verde/The Green Bird. With text written in English and in Spanish and illustrations that are colorful, detailed and a perfect compliment to the story, the reader and listeners will be drawn in immediately to this unusual folktale of nine sisters each of whom has the same number of eyes as her order of birth (the oldest of the nine has nine eyes, the youngest of the nine one). When the sister with two eyes accepts a marriage proposal from a green bird who says that he is an enchanted prince, the other sisters and the mother think Mirabel is mad. The mother forbids her to marry the prince, but Mirabel insists that this is what she is going to do and so it comes to pass. What happens next is the basis of many enduring folktales from around the world a story with magic, a struggle between good and evil/jealousy, a quest and finally, a happy ending.
This sophisticated tale will appeal to older children and adults alike. It would be an excellent resource in a middle school or high school classroom for use in a literature, as well as Spanish class. In fact, it could be used in an American history class when one studies the Southwest or in an art class as an example of how pictures can enhance and extend a story. But most important, it could be read for the sheer enjoyment of a good story.
- Andrea Karlin,
Southwest Book Views
With this recent bilingual publication, Hayes, a nationally known storyteller living in New Mexico, now has over 20 books to his name written since the days when I knew him as a high school English teacher in Los Alamos. Antonio Castro L illustrated the story and his son, Antonio Castro H, designed the layout and cover. The drawings are incredibly beautiful, rich, and lush with great detail.
The story centers on a woman who has nine daughters. Each daughter has a different number of eyes; the oldest has nine and the youngest only one. The daughter with two eyes is named Mirabel and this story is about her and her fate. One day on a walk, a talking green bird asks Mirabel to marry him, and she is so enchanted she agrees. Mirabel runs off with Prince Pájaro Verde. They live in a castle with nine rooms where each room has nine windows. Of course, the prince is under a spell and can only be a man at night.
This is a charming, complicated and surprising tale that extols the virtues of faith, hope and persistence. Hayes tells this tale, which comes from northern New Mexico by way of Spain, with suspense and humor. A real gem, this book is a must-have for young readers.