Summer & Bird Book Poster Image

Summer & Bird



Wildly imaginative quest to find parents in mythic world.

What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:Katherine Catmull
Illustrator:Lori Thorn
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Brothers and sisters, Fairy tales, Friendship, Great girl role models, Wild animals
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Dutton Children's Books
Publication date:October 2, 2012
Number of pages:384
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 17
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

This review of Summer & Bird was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

Top advice and articles

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

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 loving your family.
What other families should know
Great messages