Monday, June 29, 2015

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: NIGHTBIRD by Alice Hoffman

NIGHTBIRD by Alice Hoffman (Wendy Lamb Books, March 2015)

What It's About (from Alice Hoffman's website): Twig lives in Sidwell, where people whisper that fairy tales are real. After all, her town is rumored to hide a monster. And two hundred years ago, a witch placed a curse on Twig’s family that was meant to last forever. But this summer, everything will change when the red moon rises. It’s time to break the spell.

Opening Lines: "You can't believe everything you hear, not even in Sidwell, Massachusetts, where every person is said to tell the truth and the apples are so sweet  people come from as far as New York City during the apple festival. There are rumors that a mysterious creature lives in our town..."

Why I liked it:

I've realized I'm a big fan of stories that are set in our world but in which something is just a little off kilter. I mean, a witch's curse leading to a boy with wings: delicious.

Hoffman does a great job of weaving the past into her narrative, and if you're ever concerned about how to introduce backstory effectively, I recommend you look at Nightbird.

Finally, I love the way Twig, the MC, goes from being an unhappy, invisible girl to finding the value of friendship through having true friends. The character of Julia is instrumental in this--and I adored Julia's fierce spirit. Favorite lines from her: "I don't really care what people think anymore," Julia confided. "I make up my own mind." She grinned. "I'm from Brooklyn."

Hooray for all the Julias in this world!

About the Author (abridged from her website): Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing.  She currently lives in Boston.

Hoffman’s first novel, Property Of, was written at the age of twenty-one, while she was studying at Stanford. Since that remarkable beginning, Alice Hoffman has published a total of twenty-three novels, three books of short fiction, and eight books for children and young adults.

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  1. This sounds like a great story with a touch of magical realism. I like these kind of stories too.

  2. The title of this intrigued me, even before I read your thoughts. Thanks for featuring this one!

  3. I like when a story has a character who changes in ways that make you smile. Can't wait to track this one down and give it a go this summer. Thanks for your insightful review.

  4. Oooh! New background! Very summery. I haven't read this one, but my students are not asking for as much fantasy these days, so may pass.

  5. I really, really want to get to this book soon. It has been on my radar for awhile. I just need more time. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Loved this book! I read and reviewed it in April and I can still remember large chunks of it. But what I especially remember still is the mood. She's a master at mood-setting.

  7. I love magic realism as well, and I've heard so many good things about this book. I need to check it out to see how she weaves in back story, as that's hard to do well. Thanks for featuring it!

  8. Wow, magic? Monsters? Other cool make believe stuff? (Please be unicorns. Please be unicorns...) This book sounds like it's made for me! :-)



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