A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Nightbird, best-selling author Alice Hoffman's first tween novel, has a sweet, dreamlike quality and promotes strong bonds between friends and family. There's innocent teen romance and magic galore, from a centuries-old family curse to the dangers facing its current victim. Characters are determined to right past wrongs and create a happier, safer world for their loved ones, especially the star-crossed teens who fall in love at first sight. Young characters sometimes disobey their parents and sneak off on adventures, but their motives are pure and they usually manage to do some good as they look for ways to lift the curse.
What's the story?
Twelve-year-old Teresa Anne (Twig) Fowler and her mom live alone in the woods near the quaint town of Sidbury, Massachusetts -- or so the townsfolk think. In fact, their attic holds a family secret: James, Twig's older brother, the latest victim of a centuries-old curse. Twig has felt lonely and isolated for years, but everything changes when a new family moves into a long-abandoned cottage nearby. Twig and the younger daughter, Julia, immediately become friends -- but then Twig's mom tells her they can't see each other anymore, because it was Julia's ancestor who put the curse on Twig's family. Things take a dramatic turn when Julia's older sister and James fall in love at first sight. Meanwhile, a developer wants to raze the town's forest, and a mysterious "monster" is stealing odd objects and leaving strange graffiti around the community.
Is it any good?
A cynic will note that quite a few things in NIGHTBIRD happen awfully conveniently -- but hey, it's magic, after all. The story and characters are charming, and many a tween reader will swoon over winged James, beautiful Agate, and their curse-defying love. Best-selling author Hoffman's vivid, economical narrative captures one of those moments in time when everything changes -- including the characters' emotional states as they live through it:
"James turned and Julia saw him for who he was. He seemed like he'd walked out of the pages of a fairy tale, a mythical creature who might carry her sister into the skies and never return.
"Julia rushed at him.
" 'Leave my sister alone!' "
" 'We're just sitting here,' James assured her. 'Or we were.' "
"Agate came between them. She looped her arms around Julia. 'Please be on our side.' There were bright tears in her eyes. 'We'll have enough people who will be against us.' "
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about family curses and why they're such a popular theme. Why do you think people put curses on each other in the first place?
Which other stories do you know about young lovers who can't be together because of their feuding families? How did they turn out?
What do you know about Johnny Appleseed? Do you think his work matters in our lives today?
For kids who love magic and romance
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