Book Title: The Bird Within Me (available here)
Author: Sara Lundberg (translated by BJ Epstein)
Publisher: Book Island
Publication Date: March 2020
Most Suitable for: Years 5-6
Reviewed By: Carol Carter
The Bird Within Me is a stunning story (beautifully translated from Swedish), inspired by the paintings, letters and diaries of the late artist Berta Hansson. Growing up in rural Sweden in the early part of the 20th Century, Berta does not fit in her agricultural family. Expected to think of nothing more than helping in the fields and becoming a housewife, Berta instead has huge dreams - amorphous dreams that she cannot even put into words - of a bigger life, the life of an artist. When her mother dies of TB, the one voice encouraging her to aspire to more is lost and the days begin to merge and pass without hope. Luckily, some small snippets of encouragement, from her uncle and the local doctor, keep her spirit alive, until finally she breaks free and lets the bird within herself fly. This book is a work of art in itself. Much is said with few words, and the illustrations, in a range of styles, bring the haunting setting and characters truly alive. I’m not ashamed to say I cried, upon first reading, at Berta’s longing to be held by her mother, mirrored in the tension of the near-touching fingers in Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, Berta’s only real exposure to art. While The Bird Within Me may have a niche appeal - it will find its selected audience and the child that it touches will be touched deeply. After a story that is harrowing, the Afterword and Publisher’s Note tell us what happened to Berta after the story ends. She lived a long and rewarding life and never stopped making art. Truly, an inspiration. .
Many thanks to the publisher for sending us a review copy of this book and to Review Panel member Carol for reviewing it.
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