‘People should be careful about the stories they spread’, Twig Fowler says about the rumour that a mysterious creature is living in Sidwell. Twig, the narrator, is twelve years old, gawky, awkward and shy, and too tall for her age. She is nothing like her mother - graceful and beautiful, and the best cook in the county. Their farmhouse is 200 acres of apple orchards. It is here they come back to hide after leaving New York.
Twig and her mum have a secret and he hides in the attic. It’s her seventeen year old brother James, who was born with wings. It was the result of a spell cast by Agnes Early, witch of Sidwell, on the Fowler male line two hundred years ago, after being left by the man she was to marry.
James is a night bird. He has learnt the language of all the birds in the Montgomery Woods and they flock around him when he appears, especially the small saw whet owls. Twig knows this because James takes her on his outings. This is a secret she keeps from her mother.
A family with two delightful and friendly girls, Agate and Julia, moves into Mourning Dove Cottage next to Twig’s property. She tries to keep her distance. It is too dangerous for James if she makes friends. But life has its own plans and secrets are there to be discovered. Friendships take root in the strangest ground and sometimes nothing can stop them.
How will Twig and Julia find the way to break the spell and save James?
Then she finds the diary.
This is a mesmerising, magical tale. A story of love and mystery told in lyrical prose. It carries themes of friendship and trust; community and sharing. There is a search, a journey, and a discovery that demonstrates how tightly the past is tied to the present and the future.
The story is powerful; elemental and environmental, filled with an energy that comes from the children’s characters, and that stems from their passion for the natural world that surrounds them. It focuses on the importance of living things, and reflects on how things aren’t always how they appear.
Quite a lot in one book, you may say. I loved this book: the storyline, characters, settings, images, descriptions and language. It’s perfect in every way. Alice Hoffman has a gift, and each book she writes is her gift to her readers.
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis
Title: Night Bird
Author: Alice Hoffman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: April 2015 $16.99RRP
Type: Teenage Fiction