by Lucy Christopher
Chicken House/Scholastic (October 2011)
Jo gave me a galley of this over the summer, and since I saw it in bookstores this week, I thought I better post my book report.
it's lovely lovely lovely.
In a heartbeat, in a wingbeat, it happens. Isla's father falls. They're racing across the fields, following the swans flying in to winter at the lake like they do every year, when something goes wrong. And before she can even catch her breath, they're in the back of an ambulance, she's holding his hand.
At the hospital, upset and scared, Isla meets Harry. Unlike the boys at school, he doesn't laugh when she tells him about her love of birds. He listens. But what is he doing there?
As Isla struggles with her father's frailty and the new feelings she has for Harry, she's determined to help the only way she knows how. Outside the hospital windows, Isla watches a lone whooper swan struggling to fly. If only she could save the lost bird, would that somehow heal her dad, and cure Harry, and make everything good again?
By the author of the Printz Honor Book STOLEN, an uplifting story about "the thing with feathers" - hope.Confession: I didn't recognize right away that "the thing with feathers" was an Emily Dickinson quote. In fact, I didn't realize I should recognize it until I saw the phrase on this:
I present this as proof that cruising Etsy can be productive.
I ADORED this one. I kept thinking about it and smiling for days afterwards.
It's rare that I remember the exact moment I fall in love with a book, but I do for this one.
The book started a touch slow for me - Christopher's portrayal of Isla's family life is so complex and layered that she needed quite a few chapters to set it up.
But then came Chapter 40. (I see you gasp out there in the blogosphere. SHORT chapters, people. Very short.) Isla takes a first, can't-back-out-now step in making a Da Vinci-style flying contraption. To tell you more would spoil the magic, but my heart rushed out to hug Isla in that moment and hasn't let her go since.
Remember Sharon Creech's early novels? The Newbery Medal-winning Walk Two Moons and my personal favorite Chasing Redbird? This novel reminds me of those, with a little Fly Away Home mixed in.
(Did you ever see that movie? With a young, brunette, pre-Sookie Anna Paquin? In middle school, that movie ranked right up there with Mulan, A Little Princess, and the Secret Garden on my list of Best Films of All Time. I watched it over and over.)
Watch this, if only to giggle at the 90's outfits
Flyaway features swans, yes, but the way that Madeleine L'Engle's A Ring of Endless Light features dolphins. It's really about how terrible things can happen to a person and her family, and what you do to emotionally survive when you can't do anything to make the situation better (ie. to make a sick person well). It's about how brave you have to be just to endure a wait at hospital bedside when you might lose someone you love.
*Writer Tip Takeaway:
Lucy Christopher has mastered the hospital scene. Read her if you need to write one.
Because of the book's subject matter, there are many, but you know how almost all hospital scenes tend to feel the same? Namely: So-and-so is near death, and everyone is so sad? These aren't like that. Christopher uses the fact that the characters are in a hospital, surrounded by death, as kind of a dark shadow that throws Isla's regular thirteen-year-old girl dramas into brighter relief.
Cute boy named Harry. 'Nuff said. :-D