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Birdwing Hardcover – October 1, 2005

26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-10–This fantasy continues the Grimms' tale of The Six Swans, in which six brothers are turned into swans. Through the great sacrifice of their sister, the spell is broken, but the youngest is left with a swan's wing. Ardwin is torn between his life as a prince and his yearning to take to the skies and rejoin his avian companions. Believing his father will force him to replace his wing with a mechanical arm and marry a rival king's daughter, he flees. His friends Stephen and Skye (on whom he has a secret crush) accompany him. Feeling betrayed after finding them together as a couple, Ardwin goes his own way, hoping that by switching horses with Stephen, he'll elude his father's pursuers. His adventures have only begun as he seeks out the swans he once knew, is attacked by a lion, and rescued by the same wizard who designed the mechanical arm. He also meets the wizard's automatons, his enchantress stepmother, an unusual horse, and a goose girl who is not who she thinks she is. In true fairy-tale fashion, all's well in the end and Ardwin wisely realizes that his wing is a blessing, not a curse. Like all fairy tales, there are lots of plot twists and turns and perhaps that contributes to the sometimes meandering narrative. Overall, this is a well-realized, but unexceptional story.–Sharon Rawlins, NJ Library for the Blind and Handicapped, Trenton
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 5-8. This coming-of-age novel begins with a retelling of the Grimms'fairy tale "The Six Swans," in which six princes are transformed into swans by their stepmother, and even after they are saved, the youngest brother retains a wing instead of one arm. Now 14, Prince Ardwin must deal with everything his wing brings: the taunts of cruel boys, his longing to rejoin the swans, his secret power of understanding animal speech, and a neighboring king's "gift" of a golden arm and a princess to wed if the prince is severed from the wing. Ardwin begins a journey that takes him into peril and leaves him with greater self-acceptance, fuller knowledge of his past, and, eventually, the girl he loves. Martin deftly weaves fairy tale into fiction, giving the novel a rich context and Ardwin a familiar past. Though the happy-ever-after ending lasts a whole chapter, readers won't begrudge their beleaguered, sympathetic hero his measure of happiness. The many original characters and unusual adventure scenes ensure that readers will remember this well-paced fantasy. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 720L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (October 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439211670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439211673
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,674,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By CookieBooky on July 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
Birdwing is an interesting story. It is based on the Brothers Grimm story The Six Swans. Six brothers are turned into swans. Their sister remains silent for six years to save them. When she does, the youngest brother's left arm remains a wing. That's where the Grimm story ends and Birdwing begins.

This is a story of adventure, self-realization and kindness. It moves at a steady pace with just the right amount of description. I enjoyed the fantastical elements such as the mechanical golden arm and the presence of talking animals. It really sent home the idea that this was a story about the human spirit, about imagination and freedom to be unique.

The character of Ardwin is completely endearing. We've all felt out of place once in awhile. Imagine always being the odd one out, the boy with a wing. He more than makes up for his differences with strength, courage and kindness. Many other characters endear themselves as well - the old wizard Belarius, Prince Alene and Horse to name a few.

The settings are beautifully described. In each place that we find Ardwin, the author makes us feel as if we are there. When Ardwin and his horse face rough snowy climes, we are there with them. When the sun rises on a spring day, you could almost feel the warmth. With an economy of words, Rafe Martin has created a real modern classic.

Ardwin leaves home when he feels that there is a threat to his wing. He endures many trials which nearly kill him. He meets up with the 'witch' who 'cursed' him in the beginning. Along the way and in the end, he learns much about himself and human nature.

At, this book is recommended for grades 6-10. I think this is an appropriate age group but probably not for anyone younger.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. Dickson on November 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is beautifully written. The story, part action adventure and part fable, is captivating and filled with meaningful messages for all ages. Martin is a master storyteller bringing life to an interesting bunch of characters; including animals! I highly recommend this novel (destined to become a classic) for you and your children.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Miss Jennifer on March 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"It was on the last day of the six years during which she was not to speak or laugh if she hoped to free her brothers from enchantment, that her own sentence was to be carried out. Five of the six shirts were done, but the last and littlest was still missing its left sleeve. As they led her to the stake and the fire was about to be lit, she looked up and saw six swans flying through the sky. Her heart leapt with joy at the sight of them. The swans touched the ground before her and with lowered necks walked forward. Quickly she threw the shirts over each of them. At once their swans' skins fell off and there, once again, stood her own brothers, strong and handsome. Only the youngest and littlest lacked a left arm, and in its place there remained a swan's wing." (From "The Six Swans" by the Brothers Grimm). From this fairytale the author has written a wonderful possible scenario set in the middle ages of what became of that littlest brother. Not human and not swan, he tries to find his place in the world while living with a unique handicap, and the world makes him the cause of a war. It is beautifully written...the author is a great storyteller and he conveys the message that all creatures are important and connected in some way.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Engineer from VT on January 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A friend recommended this book and I had heard of the author Rafe Martin (my daughter has a couple of his childrens books). At first it seemed more targeted to teenage readers but the story ultimately hooked me with its substance and originality. Readers of all ages can take something from the book. For teenage readers, Ardwin models a path into adulthood with strength, character, integrity and plenty of spirit and wildness. It is the path of a true warrior as opposed to the facade of toughness which masks insecurity so commonplace in 'this' world. Myth and fantasy can often reveal more truth than a realistic narrative. This was exactly what I needed to read right now. I was impressed with the book and recommend it highly. I would love to see this story made into a screenplay someday. Since reading the book I came across an interview with Rafe Martin in the winter 2005 issue of Tricycle magazine that was very informative (and includes an extended excerpt from Birdwing).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dane on November 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Birdwing: an inspiring 'children's' story that moves magically through realms of light and dark, from painful seperation/rejection to whole-some reconciliation/acceptance. A wonderful blend of memorable characters: animal, human, mystical, mechanical and various combinations thereof. Who could forget Ardwin, Alene, and Horse, along with Belarius and his wonderful creations Trinculo & Stephano? Not to mention Sniccan and Narg, ugh! Mr. Martin is a masterful storyteller who speaks well to readers of all ages. I look forward to booking a room at "The Rack" and enjoying his next tale.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Monica Neuwirt on October 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
My 13-year-old nephew left Rafe's book at my house. I read the first couple of pages and was instantly hooked. I refused to return the book until I was finished. For the adult that enjoys reading fantasy novels like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, this book is for you. The story follows Birdwing's quest to "find himself" and to learn to appreciate his differences. This is a motivational story for anyone with a disability or inability to easily "fit in". I enjoyed it immensely and highly recommend the book.
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