Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bird by Crystal Chan

Some books arrive in our library as part of a subscription. Bird was an entirely new book to me. I had not heard of it.  The back cover said this was a YA novel so I bought Bird home to check that this book is suitable for our Primary school library.  It is!

This is a very sad book and yet Bird is really about healing.  Bird (his real name is John) has died aged five.  He jumped off a cliff wanting to fly. Blame still lies thickly over this family even now twelve years later. Grandpa named John, Bird.  Nigel, her father was not watching the young boy when he wandered off. On the day Bird died Jewel was born.  Jewel was born early - so is she to blame?  She has spent her whole life trying to please her mum, dad and reclusive grandfather.

"You'll all we got, Jewel.  I want you to make us proud.'  A small tremor ran through me, like my heart was splitting, a deep crack in the earth, and all kinds of dark fears rose up. I swallowed.  'I want to make you proud, too,' I whispered.  And nothing could have been truer than that."

Jewel makes a new friend but she knows "If you give up too much of yourself, too fast, then someone can just up and take it away."  Jewel loves rocks, she wants to be a geologist. She is also drawn to the cliff edge where her brother died.  This place has become sacred. In his grief her Grandfather no longer speaks. Over the course of the story Jewel and her Grandfather find they have a special relationship.  This is even more important when her parents destroy the sanctuary she has created at the cliff with her twelve birthday stones one for each year of her life.

"We sat like that for a long time in that warm and comforting room, our hearts hanging wide open.  I learned then that hearts don't speak with words like how we think they do in movies or in songs; I think they need a lot more space than that.  Anyway, all I really knew was that my heart had an awful raging fever that day, and in the silence, Grandpa bought with him the cooling rain."

You can hear from the author, listen to the first ten minutes and  more at the author web site.  You can read more of the plot here.

If you enjoy Bird I recommend looking for Savvy, Because of Winn Dixie or Pictures of Hollis Woods which have a very similar tone.  I read Bird in one sitting.  This means I enjoyed it.  The ending almost made me cry but not quite. I think a mature reader in Year 6 would enjoy spending time with Jewel as she and her family finally find a way to move on from their grief.

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