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Be Light Like a Bird
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Be Light Like a Bird

4.5 6
by Monika Schroder

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After the death of her father, twelve-year-old Wren finds her life thrown into upheaval. And when her mother decides to pack up the car and forces Wren to leave the only home she's ever known, the family grows even more fractured. As she and her mother struggle to build a new life, Wren must confront issues with the environment, peer pressure, bullying, and most of


After the death of her father, twelve-year-old Wren finds her life thrown into upheaval. And when her mother decides to pack up the car and forces Wren to leave the only home she's ever known, the family grows even more fractured. As she and her mother struggle to build a new life, Wren must confront issues with the environment, peer pressure, bullying, and most of all, the difficulty of forgiving those who don't deserve it. A quirky, emotional middle grade novel set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Be Light Like a Bird features well-drawn, unconventional characters and explores what it means to be a family—and the secrets and lies that can tear one apart.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After 12-year-old Wren's father dies in a plane crash, Wren and her "angry and distant" Ma leave Georgia and begin hopping from town to town in search of a fresh start. In each place it's the same routine: Wren's mother works a lot, falls quickly in and out of love, and they move once again. Seeking stability and a place to go birding, like she used to do with her father, Wren comes up with a plan to buy a house in their third town, near Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. When Wren befriends a "quiet, nerdy" classmate named Theo, they bond over the loss of a parent and work together to save a local nature preserve from becoming a landfill. In a quiet but potent novel about grief, Schröder (My Brother's Shadow) gently traces Wren's struggles as she comes to see both of her parents in a different light. Readers should be easily drawn into Wren's honest, thoughtful narrative as she carries her father's words with her, remembering her past even as she opens her eyes to the future. Ages 9–12. (Sept.)
VOYA, October 2016 (Vol. 39, No. 4) - Matthew Weaver
Wren’s father dies in a plane crash and Wren’s mother cannot deal with the loss. She suddenly starts dating much older men, and packing up and moving from place to place. Wren misses her father, but her mother will not talk about him. Eventually, they settle in Pyramid, Michigan. Wren tries to befriend popular girls Carrie and Victoria, but gets saddled with nerdy Theo as a partner in a school project on controversial questions. Wren’s only comfort in town is a pond where many birds gather—she used to bird-watch with her dad—but Carrie’s father wants to turn the pond into a landfill. Wren and Theo grow closer as they work to gather petitions and increase local awareness about the pond. Younger adult readers who have experienced a loss in their family will be able to relate to Wren’s grief and confusion in the wake of her father’s death and her mother’s reaction. The story is very simple, told with engaging characters. Schröder does little new with terrain that has already been well-covered by the likes of Carl Hiaasen and other environmentally-conscious authors. The best moment comes when Wren finally stands up for herself against Carrie, but her tale would benefit from a mounting sense of dread. All the basic elements are included, but very little comes across as suspenseful or unexpected. Reviewer: Matthew Weaver; Ages 11 to 14.
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Wren is grieving. Her father has just passed away, his body lost at sea after a flying lesson crash. She would like nothing more than to talk with, cry with, or even just get a hug from her mom, but her mother is grieving in a different way—she's angry, and she doesn't want to talk about it. After burning all of her husband's papers and getting rid of all his possessions, she packs up the car and drives Wren north out of Georgia, to a new life. A couple of weeks later, they move on again. And then again. Finally, they can't get any further north than Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and Wren decides she won't let her mom move them anymore. Being the new kid in sixth grade isn't easy, but she does manage to get to know Theo, a boy who also has a deceased parent. Wren and Theo discover that the town dump is planning to expand and fill in the wetland where Wren likes to bird-watch, and they begin to form a friendship as they research and start an environmental movement against the plan, with the help of several caring adults in town. In this book, readers experience the many different forms that grief can take and the varied effects it can have on people. Despite the heavy theme, the story is not mired in mourning, and the empowerment that Wren and Theo begin to feel as they work together is uplifting. Some of the secondary characters are one-dimensional, and the arc of Wren's mother's journey is a little uneven; however, overall, this is a thoughtful novel. VERDICT A moving and ultimately heartwarming journey through loss. Hand to readers who loved Ali Benjamin's The Thing About Jellyfish.—Jenny Berggren, Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA
Kirkus Reviews
A young girl's first-person narrative of her journey through grief to acceptance.After her father's death in an airplane accident, 12-year-old Wren is enveloped in a cloud of grief. With no body to bury, she mitigates her sadness by burying the animals she finds dead along the road. Wren's mother retreats into anger, leaving Wren to feel abandoned by both parents. After several brief moves, the mother and daughter, both white, end up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where Wren continues the bird-watching she so loved with her father. Through a school assignment, Wren learns that Pete's Pond, her birding locale, is slated to be destroyed to expand a landfill. She and her project partner, Theo, who's also white, lead a protest to stop the plan. Wren wrestles with whether to compromise her values to join the popular girls at school, deciding instead to be true to herself. By the predictable but satisfying ending, Wren has grown, with the help of Theo, whose mother previously died, toward acceptance, forgiveness, and a new definition of family. While it's preachy in parts, the maudlin is averted by Wren's authentic voice and the inclusion of engaging characters and substantive issues, ranging from peer pressure and bullying to infidelity and environmental concerns. Skillful characterization carries this quiet novel along. (Fiction. 9-12)

Product Details

Capstone Young Readers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Monika Schröder writes novels for middle-grade readers. Her books include My Brother's Shadow, which was nominated for the 2014 New York State Reading Association's Charlotte Award; Saraswati's Way, a Story of an Indian Street Child, which Bank Street College named one of the best books of 2011; and The Dog in the Wood, which earned a starred review from Kirkus and was chosen by Voya as "Top shelf fiction for middle school readers." Monika grew up in Germany but has lived and worked in Egypt, Oman, Chile, and India. She brought an Indian Street dog, whom she calls Frank, from New Delhi to her current home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. When Frank isn't demanding her attention, Monika invents vegetarian dishes, bakes cheesecakes, and tends her garden.

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Be Light Like a Bird 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous 4 days ago
The book is extremely depressing. But it is written in such a way that makes you want to read more. If you read this, NEVER GET IN A CAR OR HOUSE WITH A STRANGER! Because that is dangerous. Overall a ok book. For ages 9-17
WhisperingStories 4 months ago
When I was approached by the author about this book, I took a little while to decide whether I wanted to read it or not. I was very intrigued, and was drawn to it, but not sure how I would cope with the plot as my own father has recently passed away. But Monika’s writing style has an ease to it. She make’s you feel comfortable whilst reading about a difficult subject, and although it has quite a few emotional scenes, I was surprised that I was never brought to tears. Be Light Like A Bird, is a Children’s/YA book, that deals with some hard hitting issues. It follows the life of twelve year old Wren, and her ever increasingly distant mum, after the death of her father, in a plane crash. When her mum throws all of her fathers belongings out, packs up the family car and moves them away from the only home that Wren has ever known, Wren is devastated, and hates her mum. Especially after she makes them move three times in a short space of time. For such a young girl, Wren feels like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders, and the one person who should be there to comfort her, and tell her everything is going to be alright, is the one person making her life more miserable. Not only has her mum stopped having a relationship with her, but she won’t even allow Wren to mention her father’s name. Wren eventually see’s red when her mum gets rid of the only possession that she had left of her father, his beloved Volvo. When they finally seem to settle in a town called Pyramid, Wren gets to attend the local school. Unfortunately, she is teamed up with the ‘Geek’ of the class on a school project. Over time with the ‘Geek’, Theo’s help, Wren starts to enjoy life again, especially when they start campaigning to stop the local pond being turned into a refuse site. When her mum lets her into a secret she has been hiding, Wren accuses her of lying, but deep down she knows that her mum is telling the truth, she just doesn’t want to believe it. To me though, the secret that her mum had been keeping from her daughter didn’t justify the way that she treated her. I also feel that she should never of told her, as it only added to the hurt that Wren was already feeling. One of the many things that I like about the book, apart from the interesting and unique storyline, was that Monika has kept the chapters really short, something that I feel gives this an added interest to children and YA readers. Her writing style has a natural flow to it and reminded me of Kate Dicamillo’s books. This is a must read. It’s engaging, emotional, fun, interesting, and gripping. It has realistic characters that you can connect with. Most importantly it certainly won’t leave you disappointed.
Reading_With_Cupcakes 5 months ago
Hard hitting books that get you right in the emotional gut are hard to read, but for some reason when the book is meant for those middle grade readers out there I find them even harder to stomach. There is just something about them when I know that they are meant for a pretty young audience that really gets me. Maybe it is because I wish I could shelter these readers forever from such pain and suffering even though I know there are those out there that have already suffered through what the book is dealing with or worse. Of course Be Light Like a Bird falls into this category. I had no idea what to expect when I picked up the book. I am sure I had read the blurb about it back when the author requested a review from me, but I kind of forgot. Then, of course, I didn't bother reading the blurb again when I finally picked up the book to read it... I just went for it. Be Light Like a Bird is about a young girl named Wren. Wren is only 12 years old and already has to go through an unimaginable life experience. Her father has died in an airplane crash leaving herself and her mother without any money and their small family in turmoil. You see, for whatever reason she might have, Wren's mother refuses to talk about Wren's father. She won't talk about his death, his life, nothing. She doesn't even have a service for him. This leaves Wren to deal with the loss of her father all on her own. And her mother really isn't making the whole thing easy. Her mother and her have to move. And then her mother will date a guy for a couple weeks (even though her father has been gone for only a month or so!!) and then when they break up she has them move again. This doesn't allow Wren to form any roots or to make any friends. Making her feel even more alone and confused. Eventually Wren and her mother end up in a town called Pyramid where most of our story happens. Not only is this a story of loss, family struggles, and relationships, but it is also a story of finding a cause and fighting for it. Be Light Like a Bird really has a lot in its pages for us to take in! So what did I ultimately think of this book and the story it contained? I found it very very hard to put down. I found myself turning the pages wanting to understand what was going on. I found myself wondering what exactly was going on with Wren's mother. In short, I really enjoyed it! There was one part in the book, very early on, that I found a little awkward to read. It was when Wren's uncle came to visit shortly after the death of her father. I found his narrative to be very...odd and off and not very realistic especially for the age bracket I had mentally stuck him in. Thankfully he only makes this one extremely short appearance and no one else talks like this for the rest of the book. The rest of the book was good though. It felt like it was written correctly for a middle grade reader. It was on a tough topic, but it wasn't overly detailed on topics or anything. This left it still having a feeling of hope and, at points, a lightness which made it not as tough to get through as it could have been. With all the things covered in this book though, I think parents/guardians/teachers should be ready to have conversations that may pop up as a result of reading this book. They will happen and they are not going to be easy conversations by any means. This review is based on a copy provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. A
Holly 5 months ago
Be Light Like A Bird is the story of a young girl dealing with a loss and coming to terms with what had happened. Wren is a twelve year old girl who just lost her father in a accident and dealing with her mother who packs up everything and forces Wren to leave the only home she has ever known. As they go from town to town until a town called Pyramid, MI that will force the both of them to make a hard decision to move on or to finally make a home there. With Wren still dealing with her father's death, it takes a huge secret about him to make her realize why her mother made her leave in the first place that will make Wren understand everything that had to happen even when she didn't agree with it. As Wren navigates a new school, she comes across some mean girls who only want her around to do their work until a boy named Theo comes into her life that will make her see who is her true friends. It will all come down to a school project that will leave the town divide over a lake but at the same time, bring together people that was meant to be in the perfect ending for Wren's story! This book was amazing and it's one of those books that you can start and be finished with the book in like two hours because you don't want to put it down. You feel for what Wren is going through during her loss and what she is having to deal with at school with bullies. As the secret comes out about her father and why her mother made her leave, it all makes sense that leads to what happened in the end to where they both can finally be in a happy place in their lives! Thank You to Monika Schroder for writing a book that had me glued to the pages just to see what is next for Wren! I received this book from the Author in exchange for a honest review.
Storywraps 6 months ago
Wren, a typical twelve-year old, has her world come crashing down when her father is tragically killed in a plane crash. She gets no emotional support from her ma who is consumed with feelings of deep anger concerning her husband's death. Unable to communicate with her ma leaves her feeling abandoned and completely shattered inside and things even get worse. Ma forces Wren to pack up her belongings and move several times which causes the black looming cloud that envelopes her to become almost suffocating. How can a young girl mend the constant pain in her heart and get her life back on track all on her own? Wren struggles through episodes of loneliness, despair, peer pressure in her new school, bullying and a feeling of hopelessness. She tries valiantly to journey forward and make sense of the confusion that she wallows in and the state of her present life. She clings to her love of birds and nature which she enjoyed with her loving dad. This special interaction with wildlife leads her to a friendship with a nerdy boy who is also shunned by school peers and is deemed uncool and a misfit. Together they successfully work on issues affecting a local environmental crisis and thankfully her relationship with her ma takes a positive turn bringing them back together as family secrets are shared between the two. Wren's heartbreaking journey allows many opportunities for discussion and reflection as to what is central in life. "Be Light Like a Bird" strongly highlights the importance of family relationships, the power of forgiveness and it offers the reader hope when they are confronted with life's difficult challenges. I truly enjoyed this well-written book and I guarantee it is one that will have you thinking about it long after the last page is read. I highly recommend it.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schroder is not a light book. This middle grade novel shows that death of a loved one affects each person differently and sometimes divides people who should be close. Twelve-year-old Wren wants and needs to talk to her mother about her father’s death in a plane crash, but her mother shuts her out. Not only that, her mother burns her father’s papers, packs up and moves herself and Wren several times. The prologue shows one of Wren’s coping mechanisms—burying roadkill she finds as she bikes. She discovers a kindred spirit in Theo, who has lost his mother to cancer and takes photos of roadkill. Together, they face school bullies and the town establishment to conserve a nature area where Wren and Theo go to bird watch, an activity Wren shared with her father. Wren is a strong, smart, stubborn, independent girl who finds a way to crack through her mother’s grief and bring them back together. Wren and Theo’s community activism also helps bring people together. Schroder’s excellent writing brings us an important story that will touch the hearts of middle-graders. Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.