Monday, February 13, 2017

Winter Reading 2017 Be Light Like a Bird


The title of this book comes from a quote by Paul Valery, a French poet (among other accomplishments), and appears in the bird watching journal of the protagonist, Wren. The journal was a gift from her father, with whom Wren enjoyed going birding and recording their discoveries. Little does she know that the quote will have great applicability to her life when her father dies in a plane crash. Suddenly it seems that Wren is like a feather caught in a wind determined to tumble her around willy-nilly. While Wren wants time to grieve for her father, her mother gets rid of all his things and then packs the car and takes Wren up the interstate looking for a new life. A few weeks in one place, a few weeks in another, and then a third move lands them in the U.P. of Michigan. Wren decides it is time to be more of a bird, plotting her own course, rather than a windblown feather. Readers will sympathize with her desire to put down some roots and return to a more normal life.

I really enjoyed the theme of flight in all its different appearances in the story. There is the flight of the birds that Wren goes back to watching, even though it is not the same without Dad. Her mother's migration north from their home in Georgia to the town of Pyramid, Michigan is another kind of flight - leaving behind bad memories and looking for a fresh start. Her father's flying lessons lead to his fatal flight and an Icarus-like crash into the sea. And there are also the ways in which Wren and Theo, the boy from her class, choose to spread their wings and take on the cause of saving their bird-watching pond from becoming an extension of the town's landfill.

Wren and Theo are great characters, with enough in common to develop a friendship, but enough differences to keep things interesting. The sympathetic adults in town like Mrs. Russo the librarian, or Mr. Leroy at the health food store add to the story with their support and warmth. Randle Redbird is probably the most intriguing adult with his mix of Chippewa heritage, Buddhist philosophy, and owning the local junk yard "Where cars come to die." 

This is a story of a grieving child, but it involves so many other things like friendship, being the new kid, civic action, and standing up for yourself. Any middle grade reader who enjoys realistic fiction with memorable characters and a strong female protagonist will find Be Light Like a Bird a story that they will fly through.

I received a copy from the author for review purposes.

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