Be Light Like a Bird

Be Light Like a Bird

by Monika Schröder


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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 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.)

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

ISBN-13: 9781623707491
Publisher: Capstone
Publication date: 09/01/2016
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 827,943
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

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