By Matt Berman,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Child-author's debut will inspire kids.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Violence & Scariness
Sword, spear, and arrow battles with injuries and deaths; slaves are whipped and mistreated; torture is mentioned; a bird is dismembered.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Birds drink beer and wine -- apparently at the same time.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this book, written by an 11-year-old, includes some violence, with injuries and deaths.
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What's the Story?
An evil hawk named Turnatt attempts to rule the forest through brutality and intimidation. He captures birds to be his slaves and build a fortress, and he gets the bluejays and cardinals fighting against one another.
Once they realize they have been tricked, the jays and cardinals unite, but they are still not strong enough to defeat Turnatt and his crow minions. Their only hope is the legend of Swordbird, son of the Great Spirit, who can bring peace. But how can they find him?
Is It Any Good?
Taken as the work of a truly gifted 11-year-old, this is extraordinary. Any middle-school teacher would be thrilled to have a student do work like this, and Fan is certainly a budding talent worth watching for in the future. Is it fair to judge it the same way that novels by adults are judged? On that basis, it is sorely lacking: Stilted prose and sometimes embarrassingly awkward dialogue, a simplistic, derivative plot -- if this had been written by an adult, it is unlikely it would have seen print.
Does that matter? Probably not. Middle-graders will undoubtedly enjoy it (pleasure enhanced by knowing that a kid wrote it), and be inspired by its young author, maybe even to the point of trying some writing of their own. So no harm done, and maybe something to the good.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the author's intentions. She has stated that this book grew out of her feelings about terrorism and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that it carries a message of peace. What do you think she was trying to convey? What is her message? How can a book filled with warfare be about peace? Also, how could an 11-year-old write a book like this? Do you have any ideas for a story?
- Author: Nancy Yi Fan
- Illustrator: Mark Zug
- Genre: Fantasy
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
- Publication date: February 1, 2006
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 219
- Last updated: July 12, 2017
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