Review: The Theory of Hummingbirds

We are all different in some way. Those differences may be indiscernible, as tiny as the smallest birds on earth, or as with Alba, immediately noticeable and something she has had to drag around since birth. Alba was born with what is commonly referred to as a club foot. Twisted in the wrong way and subject to a brace for most of her life, Alba refers to her physical affliction as, Cleo and can’t wait to banish Cleo for a life more normal.

Alba’s asthmatic, science-loving best friend, Levi has a desire of his own, to uncover the mystery of their disappearing school librarian and confirm the location of a wormhole that might lead into another region of the universe. For Alba, normal translates into a chance to run in the school’s cross country race, a two kilometre opportunity for her to not just be part of the race but to be in the race. Only trouble is, she has just two weeks between getting her cast off and Cleo into shape before the race.

No one believes she can do it, not even her well-meaning physician, Dr Schofield or even Levi. Alba’s blind determination to prove them all wrong clouds her judgement and corrupts her friendship until the parable of The Hummingbird and the Fire allows Alba to refocus and re-evaluate exactly what matters most.

Levi and Alba not only share a friendship that is true and enduring but also a healthy obsession and fascination for hummingbirds. This commonality provides a charming cluster of analogies that connect Cleo, Alba, Levi and the reader with the notions of tenacity, loyalty, compassion, environmentalism, and acceptance. Love who you are and love what you can do is the winning message in this eloquently told tale by an author, Michelle Kadarusman, who has walked the walk as it were. Up until now, I had only known one other person in real life who had to have (both) her legs strapped and in casts since birth to enable her to walk properly.

I love the tingle of mystery that ripples throughout this story thanks to some intriguing scientific references. Alba and Levi’s relationship is a refreshing and genuine representation of lower primary school reality; it makes you laugh and cry. I also love the dogged fixation portrayed by Levi and Alba to achieve their goals despite a universe of improbabilities and was reminded of what absolute conviction feels like when experienced as a child. This is a tale that beats faster than a hummingbird’s heart (which is about 1,200 beats per minute!) and is just as engrossing.

Youngsters from the age of seven upwards will adore The Theory of Hummingbirds if for no other reason than Alba’s equally fascinating glossary of hummingbird facts at the end of the novel. Highly recommended.

Title: The Theory of Hummingbirds
Author: Michelle Kadarusman
Publisher: UQP, $14.99 
Publication Date: June 2020
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780702262920
For ages: 7+
Type: Junior Novel

Buy the Book: UQP, Boomerang Books, Booktopia


Norah Colvin said…
I love hummingbirds and I love the sound of this story. I think children will love it too.
DimbutNice said…
Yes, Norah, me too! It actually covers a bit of ground in the most charming, intimate way for youngsters: disability, friendship and STEM elements too. Love it!

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