Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Keep on singing

NightbirdNightbird by Alice Hoffman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's a sweet book by Alice Hoffman, filled with beautiful sentences and just the right touch of magic, tasty as apple pie and moonlight, a mix of Cynthia Rylant and Hilary McKay. To me, middle grade fiction is the truly universal literature; like cartoons, deceptively simple yet appealing to all generations. Unlike cartoons, no need to slide into caricature--though it's certainly a great tool and an argument could be made that all fiction, the characters being crafted, is caricature. That was a digression, but gives a sense of how difficult it is to appeal to both children and adults. Hoffman succeeds.

Publisher blurb: "Twig  lives in Sidwell, where people whisper that fairy tales are real. After all, her town is rumored to hide a monster. And two hundred years ago, a witch placed a curse on Twig’s family that was meant to last forever. But this summer, everything will change when the red moon rises. It’s time to break the spell."

Twig doesn't have friends, she has secrets, but this is the year everything changes. New people move into the town, new controversy sparks, and somehow Twig's connected to all of it.  There's danger, mystery, prejudice, and love lost and found. There's apple magic, and summer days, and friendship and loneliness. Why only four stars? The story is told in Twig's voice, first person past tense, so not my favorite point of view. It's a beautiful story and mostly we are carried along in Twig's twelve year old perceptions, but there are times when I felt the perspective  switched to "flashback" and it threw me out of the story for a bit. Four stars--the book will be treasured and stay with you. Five stars--the book will help form your soul. And this will be a five star book for some. Here, describing a tradition of counting fireflies (which I have never seen), comes one of those Hoffman moments:

"It was an old game with us and we reached two thousand before we gave up. There was so much light in the world we knew we would never be able to count it all." Just one sentence gives you the nostalgic essence of a perfect summer. A good book from a great writer. Recommended for ages 10 up.

(I received an EARC from the publisher and Netgalley for review.)

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