By Author / Illustrator
Karen McCombie, Jasu Hu
Nosy Crow Ltd
Paperback / softback
Nominated for the 2020 CILIP Carnegie Medal. Bridie lives on the remote Scottish island of Tornish, the youngest of three sisters. Although she loves her island, with its wild seas and big skies, she guiltily nurses a secret dream of flight - to America and the freedom of the New World. But her family are struggling under the spiteful oppression of the new Laird, and it seems that even some of the Laird's own household are desperate to leave. When the Laird's full cruelty becomes apparent, there's no more time for daydreams as Bridie needs to help the people she loves escape to safety.The first in a gripping, dramatic new series from much-loved author, Karen McCombie.
I absolutely adore this book. I cannot tell you just how much I have enjoyed reading it. Things I enjoyed: The map at the beginning really helped me to visualise Tornish. It was a great addition and don't the best books always have maps?! I loved how much description the book went into, Karen describes things so that they literally jump off the page and settle in your mind's eye. I have found myself completely and utterly compelled by the story, so much so that I have become emotionally attached to the characters - while they've been sad, I have too. While they've been cheerful, I have too. When they were angry, I grew angry. The story follows Bridie, also known as Little Bird, who I found immensely likable. She's witty, feisty, adventurous - all the best leading ladies are! I desperately want to discuss my favourite parts with you, especially those that I found quite powerful but I would regret spoiling the story for you. I can't wait to read the next book. I found this book a fantastic read.
Suggested Reading Age 9+
Bridie, known as Little Bird, lives on the Isle of Tornish in Scotland in the 1860s. Her life is simple and happy until the new Laird of the island changes everything with his cruel plans. Bridie has always longed to leave Tornish and longs to see the world, but this is not the escape she had planned.
Bridie is a determined heroine and this story is an exciting blend of adventure and history. The characters are vividly drawn and brought to life. Bridie's family - her two older sisters, younger brother and father, are the main focus of the story (her mother is dead), but every character is interesting, and the social history involved quite detailed. The children, for example, only go to school if there happens to be a teacher there and when the teacher leaves, they simply don't go.
The older girls have already left school and take jobs as servants. Bridie's life seems unimaginably free to many modern children; she just goes out and about as she pleases, climbing rocks - no health and safety warnings for her!.
If you are looking for a story with a strong female central character (who also happens to have a disability; a twisted foot and withered hand), then Little Bird Flies most definitely fits the bill. If you are looking for a historical novel set in the Victorian era, then this book also works well. For me, the real interest is in the setting I know very little about but can imagine from the story. I felt the sadness of leaving as Bridie did and await the next story of her life, Little Bird Lands, with great anticipation.
256 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, consultant teacher.
Suggested Reading Age 9+
Little Bird Flies is a stunning historical novel for 9+ telling the story of one family's life on a Scottish island during the 1860s.
Little Bird, Bridie MacKerrie, has the same life and same future laid out for her as all of the other children on the island of Tornish - follow in the footsteps of their parents to croft, work in the Laird's house or raise a family of their own. But Bridie is different; different because she has a disability but, much more importantly, because she has secret dreams to fly away over the horizon westward, to a life of adventure in a world she can barely imagine.
As the novel begins, the settled Tornish community, beautifully written with a host of realistic characters the reader is immediately drawn to, is thrown into turmoil by the death of the beloved old Laird, Mr Menzies, and his replacement by the much less sympathetic Palmer-Reeves family. Soon the islanders' entire way of life is under threat. And, when Bridie and her family become embroiled in an attack against the new Laird, they have no choice but to flee the only home they have ever known.
Little Bird Flies is gripping, emotional and fast-paced and, as such, will be read voraciously by any fans of historical fiction. This is very much in the Emma Carroll vein, both in the well-handled plot which teaches the reader a huge amount about life in 19th Century Scotland without ever being heavy-handed, and the magnificent evocation of the inner lives, motivations and relationships between the main characters.
Bringing together themes of immigration, class, self-belief and disability, Little Bird Flies would be a fantastic class reader for any Year 5/6 Immigration topic.
The adventures of the MacKerrie clan will continue in the second book of the series, Little Bird Lands, where Bridie achieves her long-held dream to fly westward and the reader will discover if the new life is everything she wished for.
256 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Carol Carter, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 9+