I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull
Published: 2012 by Dutton Juvenile
Genres: Children's, Fantasy
Source: the publisher
Buy on Amazon
View on Goodreads
Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull is the story of two little girls who discover the magic in their world. Their mother is secretly the queen of the birds, and their father is an ornithologist. Before they were born, the mother’s swan form was locked away, and she has been living as a human ever since. One night, she becomes a swan again and flies away. Her husband runs after him, forgetting about Summer and Bird and focusing solely on finding his wife. The children soon follow, becoming separated as their unique natures and ideas cause them to follow different paths and pursue different goals. Meanwhile, the greedy Puppeteer will stop at nothing to find the swan robe, because she believes that it will allow her to become the queen of the birds.
Summer and Bird began as a bedtime story that the author told to the children she was babysitting. The story is a blend between our own familiar world and the magic of folklore and mythology. The characters feel like archetypes, and while figures like the Puppeteer are a bit flat, it further solidified the fairy tale mood that Summer and Bird conveyed. The story isn’t fast-paced, but rather meanders and drifts as the characters wander and discover new things about themselves. I found it best to read a chapter or two at a time while relaxing rather than tackling the whole book at once.
***This paragraph will contain some mild spoilers*** One of the things I enjoyed most about Summer and Bird was the bittersweet ending. I saw it as a way of explaining the concept of divorce in a way that doesn’t cast blame on anyone, but instead highlights the way that two people can have fundamental differences. Summer and Bird’s mother is a swan, and their father is an ornithologist. While they love each other very much, they’re fundamentally incompatible. They come from two different worlds, and while opposites attract, there can come a point when a couple is just too different. Even though the father studies birds for a living, he can’t understand the mother when she is in her natural form. He doesn’t understand the magical language of birds, and all he hears is squawking. Even though he was able to live happily with the mother when she had lost her swan robe and been out of her kingdom, she was always missing an important part of herself, and was never quite fulfilled. Seeing their relationship fall apart was not good or bad so much as necessary. They just didn’t belong together, and Summer and Bird both had to learn to accept that and to find their own places in the world. The story explains an adult concept, but does so in a tactful and magical way that helps children understand why adults do the things they do, while emphasizing that it doesn’t mean that they aren’t loved. ***End Spoilers***
Catmull crafts a modern fairy tale that highlights the wonder and confusion that is a part of growing up and becoming independent. Summer and Bird may be directed toward children, but it will be treasured by audiences of all ages.