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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Review: Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull

If you followed my advice and read Cathrynne Valente's Fairyland books (and I know you did) or if you are a fan of Neil Gaiman's fantasies, I mus impress upon you the importance of reading Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull. It is a perfect sort of fantasy filled with adventure, love, and danger.

Summer and Bird is the story of two sisters whose parents have gone missing overnight. Summer, the older sister, is very like their father. She is practical both in life and the way she interacts with nature. The much younger Bird favors their mother. She lives with the spirit of nature, spending her time becoming a part of the natural world around her rather than observing and attempting to understand it. The relationship between the sisters is so wonderful; they are so different and so similar - they are real sisters.

As the girls travel through the forest looking for their parents, they begin to discover the magic that has been hidden from them their whole lives. Their mother is the queen of birds, but her mantle was stolen by an evil puppeteer who longed to be a bird herself. Now, their mother is trapped and Summer and Bird must work to free her before the false queen destroys all of the birds of the forest.

What sets this novel apart from any other middle grade fantasy is the writing. The author has a way of taking the norm and making it otherworldly, as in the description of falling asleep that has stayed with me: "sleep opened its dark mouth and swallowed her." Haven't you felt that same way when falling asleep into a nightmare? Catmull's voice is pitch perfect for the genre - it is a blend of magic, fairytale, and authentic young characters. Summer and Bird is a wonderful novel that has been beautifully illustrated, and I want to hand it out to every twelve year old I know - and their sister.

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