Genres: Children’s, Contemporary
Publisher: Capstone Young Readers
Publication Date: September 1st 2016
3 OUT OF 5 STARS
Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was received through the author in exchange for an honest review.
When Wren’s father dies her world ends. Suddenly her mom, who is always mad, is dragging her from city to city. Wren desperately wants to discuss her pain with her mother and more than anything she wants to stop moving every time her mother breaks up with a new man. As Wren struggles to come to terms with the loss she overcomes several other difficult issues and discovers who she is.
Be Light Like a Bird covers very serious subject matter, but Schroder has written it in a way that is appropriate and useful for younger readers. Wren’s journey dealing with loss, lies and fitting in is an excellent story for young readers. It will particularly resonate with younger readers who have also recently experienced a death and are struggling to deal with it.
Wren is relatable, likeable and just a little quirky. It’s easy to cheer for her as well as sympathize with her pain. Wren’s mother, unlike many adults in children’s fiction, is a complex character. She is not supportive of Wren, she makes mistakes but she is not a bad person. She is clearly dealing with the loss in her own negative way and it would have been easy for Schroder to cast her as a monster instead of a real, believable person. I am pleased that she chose the latter. Too often adults in children’s and YA novels are either all good or all bad and robbed of being actual people.
I did find that the book felt a little dated. In a way it felt sort of nostalgic but it was noticeably not present day. It might be more difficult for a child in the present to empathize with Wren when her world seems so far off from the one we live in now. There is a definite lack or present pop culture or technology – which can be seen positively as well because it makes the book timeless. However, I’ve always felt contemporary is better when it’s firmly rooted in a certain decade. As well, the secondary characters felt a little flat and stereotypical.
The weaving of Wren’s sorrow and the plot about saving her favourite nature spot was masterful. The way the nature plot was tied up actually surprised me with a clever twist. I thought Wren’s grief was tied up a bit neatly but because it’s a children’s novel a neat ending was probably the way to go.
I did find the excitement in the plot a little lacking, it was a very subdued story. There could have been more focus on Wren and her mother and less on the popular girls at school but overall I think this is a charming read for young readers.
A beautiful book about grief, forgiveness and letting go.