Review: Twitch and other Bird Books to Twit About


Anyone who knows me well knows I harbour a deep fondness for feathered things. Chooks, ducks, quails, budgies, galahs, turkeys and even rosellas have all graced my childhood at some point or another. And don’t even get me started about the pigeons! That’s a whole other story, right, Pippa?! So it’s little wonder these next few books enthralled from the get go. They all incorporate avian expression and characteristics in some way that contributes a sky-full of heart and soul to these stories. Take off with them soon!

Twitch

Twitch is a young lad residing in the English countryside surrounded by broads teaming with birdlife. Like me as a child, he prefers the company of winged creatures to the two-legged ones who frequently ridicule and bully him. His reticent and reclusive ways belie his quick wit and sharp intelligence. He despises school but takes infinite pleasure in his own company. He homes a family of pigeons on a rooftop loft and communes daily with his cackleberry-laying girls. Swallows even reside in his bedroom, an arrangement Twitch’s single, hardworking mother joyfully ignores.

Twitch looks forward to the summer school holidays, hoping to fill his days with birdwatching from the privacy of his self-constructed hide secreted in the heart of the aptly named Aves Wood. A dramatic prison escape turns the town upside down though, filling the woods with unwanted attention making Twitch’s solitary escapades increasingly precarious. It’s Twitch’s innate talents for birdwatching and his animalistic instincts that finally thrust this mystery-laced tale towards its thrilling conclusion.

Twitch’s story addresses bullying and the multi-tiered aspects of trust from several different viewpoints, including the antagonists’. Twitch has the pre-teen naivety of an only child keen to feel wanted but life-wary. A non-feathered friend would be the crowning crest of his brief existence yet his fear of rejection and ridicule is hard to combat.

Twitch is a bewitching tale that rollicks along at an energetic pace. Primary aged readers who have little understanding of avian ways and species may be prompted to explore the world of birdwatching whilst those, like me, will appreciate the Aves inspired subtleties and accuracies, M G Leonard incorporates into the storyline. The narrative is clever and invigorating. I especially loved the absence of adult intervention (barring the brilliantly written, Amita) during the hilarious climax of this story which literally will give you wings.

Title: Twitch
Author: M G Leonard
Publisher: Walker Books, $18.99
Publication Date: June 2021
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781406389371
For ages: 9 – 13
Type: Middle Grade Fiction

Buy the Book: Walker Books Australia, Boomerang Books

I've not covered these next couple of novels in copious detail but they are highly recommended and absorbing reads each with its own peculiar avian affiliation. 

Extraordinary Birds

Sandy Stark-McGinnis’ stunning debut novel is both heart wrenching and heart soaring. Eleven-year-old December has bounced from one foster home to another since her mother left her with nothing but a book about birds and the message: ‘In flight is where you’ll find me’, a statement that carries the weight of multiple meanings.

December survives the memory of her brief and painful past and the realities of her uncertain future with the unshakeable belief that she is a bird and once fully transformed with wings that are ready to sprout from the scar on her back any day now, believes she will fly away to reunite with her mother.

Spontaneously tender and surreal, Extraordinary Birds ingeniously weaves a wealth of bird lore into a storyline brimming with poignant hope. Unique friendships explore diversity and the notion that falling from ones nest is not the worst thing that can happen to a young bird. It’s how many learn to fly. On the way down, December eventually realises this and exactly where it is that she belongs. Uplifting and at times emotional, this tale focuses less on the mechanics of the fostering system and more on the physiological entanglement young people endure as products of this system.

Title: Extraordinary Birds
Author: Sandy Stark-McGinnis
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, $14.99
Publication Date: July 2019
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781526603159
For ages: 9 – 13 Type: Middle Grade Fiction

Buy the Book: Bloomsbury Books, Boomerang Books

Ghost Bird

The connection to birds is more tenuous yet just as impactful in this young adult fiction that is a powerful reflection on cultural diversity and sibling bonds. Dark and brooding in parts, Ghost Bird is a gripping mystery centred on Stacey’s identical twin sister, Laney’s disappearance. The girls are night and day despite their genetic sameness yet their inextricable bond resurfaces for Stacey through a succession of reoccurring ominous dreams. Set against a backwash of small town prejudice, racism, apathy and cultural insensitivity, Ghost Bird is a stirring novel pulsing with rich characters and palpable atmosphere.

Title: Ghost Brid
Author: Lisa Fuller
Publisher: UQP, $19.95
Publication Date: October 2019
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780702260230
For ages: 14+
Type: Young Adult Fiction

Buy the Book: UQP, Boomerang Books


Comments

Rachna Chhabria said…
The bird books look amazing. I will add them to my TBR pile.
DimbutNice said…
Hello, Rachna, they really are. Informative but highly entertaining, too. All worth reading! Dimity

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