Little Bird Lands
By Author / Illustrator
Karen McCombie, Jasu Hu
Nosy Crow Ltd
Paperback / softback
Little Bird has landed in America, far from her home in Scotland and far from the danger that stalked her family. But the new world holds new perils, and soon she's on the run again. From the teeming streets of New York to the prairies of the west, Little Bird holds tight to secrets and dreams of freedom. Then, on her journey, she comes face-to-face with an unwelcome ghost from the past...The brilliant sequel to Little Bird Flies, this is an exciting story of settling in the New World while still being haunted by everything you've left behind. Themes of emigration and immigration, race and social status are thought-provokingly explored by the brilliant Karen McCombie. A modern Little House on the Prairie!
Little Bird Lands is the second book in the adventures of Bridie , set in the mid-1800s. The first book, Little Bird Flies, took place on the remote Scottish island of Tornish. This book is set in America, where Bridie and part of her family have fled a cruel landlord.
The first book finished with the family setting sail for America. This story starts in New York in 1864 and then moves to Michigan and then again, to Minnesota. The historical detail is particularly interesting and the story, both exciting and detailed.
Bridie is a very interesting figure in her own right, being a person who one would consider disabled, whilst not allowing her disability to prevent her from doing anything. Whilst it is an important part of the story, it is not the sole focus and it is good to have a feisty heroine overcoming disadvantage. The other characters are also noteworthy, most particularly Dr Spicer, who must have truly been a pioneer in every sense of the word. There is also the sadness of separation; Bridie's two older sisters have remained in Scotland and, due to the vagaries of the post (and for children the incredible concept of no phones and no internet!), they have had no contact for years. That concept is almost unimaginable to today's children, and it carries on as a thread throughout the story.
Two historical facts in the story are the Civil War and slavery. They are touched upon and one is aware of the impact, as well as the treatment of the Native Americans, whose land is being stolen by the settlers. This could have made for upsetting reading but is handled deftly enough that it is not so upsetting, more troubling and thought provoking.
If I had one wish it would have been to linger longer in all the places Bridie visits. New York must have been fascinating at that time and the remote towns equally interesting but for different reasons. Apart from feeling loathe to leave Bridie's company, I could have happily spent more time in the America of old and caught a longer glimpse of the past.
Anyone who enjoyed the first book will want to read this one and it does not disappoint.
240 pages / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 9+
Little Bird Lands is the stunning conclusion to the historical diptych beginning with 2019's Little Bird Flies.
At the end of the first novel, we left Bridie MacKerrie, also known as Little Bird, as she landed in New York in 1864, about to begin a new life having escaped the accusations of kidnapping, theft and attempted murder dogging her family back in Scotland.
This conclusion to her story takes in a New York farmstead, P.T. Barnum's America Museum, copper mining in Michigan, fires, shootings and a mysterious Chippewa Curse, before the family continue their travels westward to Minnesota, a series of reunions and a satisfying resolution to Little Bird's tale.
Many familiar characters from the first novel reappear as well as some interesting new ones; such as lady's maid, Easter, and 'Indian' Jean.
Little Bird Lands is a pacy read which leaves the reader with the gratifying sigh as you close the last page of a story well resolved. Some of the events lack the fleshing-out and depth of description of the first novel (I missed Bridie's feeling of close attachment to the natural landscape, in particular) but the overall story arc will surely be satisfying to younger readers of 9+, who will be fully invested in the MacKerries' family drama.
240 pages / Reviewed by Carol Carter, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 9+