Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bird, by Rita Murphy

I wanted to read “Bird” because of the picture on the cover. It’s of a house, a cockeyed Victorian with four stories, all seeming to teeter in the wind, and with trees growing around it -- for stability? Atop the house is a fifth floor made of glass and surrounded by a widow’s walk, where a woman could gaze across the ocean to see if her husband’s ship or fishing boat was in view.
The house is called Bourne Manor, and in it live a creepy woman called Wysteria and a very tiny girl called Miranda, who was blown there by the wind. Wysteria takes Miranda into the Manor, which, Miranda tells us, gives its shelter to the lost and aimless. She makes Miranda wear a pair of boots with steel plates in the soles, to keep her from blowing away again. She teaches her the basics of reading and figuring, and has the tiny girl work by mending fishing nets. She basically keeps Miranda prisoner in the Manor, most of which is locked up so the girl can enter only enter a few rooms. As a result, Miranda becomes fearful of the outdoors and the outside world in general.
Then Miranda finds a key. She gains entrance to the glass room and the widow’s walk. She also can enter Wysteria’s dead husband’s room, where she finds several kites. When she flies the captain's kites from the widow's walk, she rediscovers the forbidden joy of letting her hair fly in the wind.
Indirectly, a kite that gets away brings her a new acquaintance, a boy named Farley. And soon afterward, Wysteria becomes ill and Miranda’s life changes dramatically. Among other things, she finds out what she really is.
This is one of the better written children’s books I’ve found. It’s only about 150 pages long, but the story is full and engrossing, mysterious and haunting.

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