Alice Hoffman, the author of such popular books as The Dovekeepers and Practical Magic, just penned her first middle grade novel, Nightbird. As in her previous novels, Hoffman uses magical realism to explore life in a small town where one small girl lives a lonely life due to a centuries-old family curse.

You do not cross a witch. This is a fact that the Fowler family understands better than any other because a long time ago a curse was enacted upon them. Due to the curse, the family withdrew as much as possible from society, away from prying eyes. Twig Fowler is a lover of climbing. She loves nature, acting and her family. More than anything, Twig wants a friend. But life is not easy for the Fowlers, for what would the town’s people do if they found out that what they think of as “the Sidwell monster” is actually Twig’s big brother?

When new neighbors move into the vacant cottage next door, life gets more complicated. Twig struggles with wanting to be friends with Julia and knowing it’s against the rules. Not only is this family a threat to the Fowler’s isolation, but they are ancestors of Agnes Early, the witch who cursed the family so long ago. But what if the curse could be broken? What if there’s more to the story of Agnes Early and Lowell Fowler, the long ago ill-fated sweethearts?

This was a very sweet read. Twig is a wonderful character who has a lot to deal with for one so young. She learned to keep secrets long ago and repress her desire to make friends and be well liked. Any child who has felt isolated by his peers will recognize the yearning Twig feels. I enjoyed that there was no bad guy. It gets difficult to read books where one character is blatantly bad. Instead Nightbird concentrates on misunderstandings. People in the town of Sidwell are well-meaning and the reader gets the sense of small town living.

This is the perfect book for Middle Schoolers and a great companion to spring/summer reading lists! Hopefully Alice Hoffman continues writing for children because her first attempt was a beautiful addition to children’s literature.

 

Kristin Milks is a Collection Analyst with OverDrive

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