Summer & Bird

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Summer & Bird Book Poster Image
Wildly imaginative quest to find parents in mythic world.

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Kids say

age 10+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about many types of birds and their characteristics. They'll also encounter some popular mythogical themes, e.g. the death and rebirth of the phoenix.

Positive Messages

Love unites a family despite overwhelming troubles. Working together -- despite rivalries and regardless of species -- leads to good results.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Summer, Bird, and their parents are all flawed, inspiring characters who show great courage at some times and believable lapses at others. They don't always do the right thing, but they're trying and often rise to heroic levels in the process.


A character's life is saved when the Swan Queen summons a flock of birds to kill a villain. Another character proves to be the famed phoenix, who's consumed by fire and then reborn. At various times, a number of characters are kidnapped and held prisoner, and their lives are in danger. Bird characters die at the hands of dire forces.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Summer & Bird is a dazzlingly inventive, beautifully told fantasy about two girls on a quest to find their parents in a magical universe. First-time author Katherine Catmull's dense, evocative style may be a barrier to some readers, while it will delight others. The story is sometimes scary, with danger a constant presence and violent death befalling some characters. At various times, a number of characters are kidnapped and held prisoner. Bird characters die at the hands of dire forces. The story also delves compellingly into emotional territory that may be too intense for some young readers -- vanishing parents, love and hate between family members, destructive relationships.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byAbbyetta July 25, 2015

Really Good

Summer & Bird is an absolutely amazing book. It is one of my favorites. The characters are really believable, and the book has a good message about lovi... Continue reading

What's the story?

Summer and Bird are two sisters, 12 and 9, who live with their parents in a house in a meadow near the forest. They wake one morning to find the house freezing cold and their parents disappeared, with nothing but a mysterious picture message from their mom to tell what's happened. When they go off in search of their mom and dad, they find themselves in a different world of talking animals, mythical creatures, and new dangers, where they're quickly separated. The quest for their parents leads them to the evil Puppeteer, who's enslaved the birds, and to many unexpected revelations about their family and their own destinies.

Is it any good?

Densely crafted, wildly imaginative, and beautifully realized, SUMMER & BIRD is a complex book with a deliberate, convoluted narrative voice. Its magical realism requires some suspension of disbelief as it moves seamlessly between the world we know and debut author Katherine Catmull's invention, where girls and birds converse and cosmic forces are at work. Catmull also explores plenty of real-life emotional territory, from jealousy and sibling rivalry to catastrophic loss and the love that binds a family. Evocative artwork by Lori Thorn on the cover and inside pages adds to the accessibility of the bird world.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the characters in Summer and Bird, and their conflicted relationship. If you have brothers or sisters, does this ring true to you?

  • Why do you think stories of kids finding their true destiny in an alternate world are so popular?

  • Would you have written a different ending to the story? How would you have had things turn out?

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