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My Dad's A Birdman Hardcover – February 26, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 1–4—A distinguished author's use of birds and human flight as metaphors for love's transcendence over grief and death takes a new form in this comic piece of magical realism. Lizzie and her widowed dad live in a city along the river Tyne in the north of England. From the first page it is clear that Lizzie is playing parent to her father's irresponsible child. Both are reacting to the recent death of Lizzie's mother. While the girl works hard at school, Dad remains in his room, unshaven and undressed. Finding purpose in the recently announced Great Human Bird Competition ("the first one to fly over the river Tyne wins a thousand pounds"), he secretly constructs a pair of wings from bird feathers and starts to consume bugs and worms. Sensible Auntie Doreen, as solid as her dumplings, calls him "daft." But when she tries to take Lizzie away from him, the child does her realistic best to make her father's dreams come true. Handsomely produced, the book is printed in varying size typefaces and enhanced by Dunbar's pencil, watercolor, and collage illustrations interspersed throughout the text. Casual yet evocative, they perfectly interpret Almond's broadly sketched characters. A fine read-aloud.—Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

What if your dad was Skellig? Perhaps the idea of normalizing the mysterious, memorable character from his eponymous first book for young people wasn’t what Almond had in mind here, but it’s difficult not to think of Skellig when Lizzie’s father, Jackie, is eating bugs and trying to sprout wings. First written as a play for the Young Vic theater, this is an odd but moving piece. Jackie is obsessed with making wings that will take him high enough to win Mr. Poop’s Great Human Bird Competition. Jackie’s sister, Aunt Doreen, tries to keep him tethered with her rock-hard dumplings, but soon Lizzie joins Jackie in trying to fly—their method of propulsion, “wings and faith.” Dunbar’s glorious watercolor-and-collage artwork captures the happiness throughout. Despite flying flops, father and daughter realize it’s togetherness that can make someone soar. But in Roald Dahl–like fashion, there’s darkness here. Jackie is disturbing—possibly mad—and the subtly mentioned death of Lizzie’s mother adds an undercurrent of sadness. As always, however, Almond writes beautifully, and though particular moments may give pause, this novel is a tribute to the human spirit. Grades 4-6. --Ilene Cooper
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 420L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; First Edition edition (February 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763636673
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763636678
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #602,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By delzey on August 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Lizzie's a bright, independent girl who gets her self up in the morning, gets dressed, makes tea and toast, and calls her dad down to breakfast. But dad drags. Dad droops. And when asked what his plans are for the day while she's at school dad announces that he's going to fly like a bird and enter the human bird competition. Suddenly we are faced with a role reversal of a responsible parent-like child and a child-like parent. What would cause this reversal only becomes obvious by the lack, and no mention of, Lizzie's mother. This is made clear a few chapters in when Lizzie's Aunt Doreen drops by to see to how Lizzie and her dad are getting along. Once she sees that dad has fashioned a set of wings for himself and has taken to eating bugs (in order to be more bird-like), and that Lizzie has taken to staying home from school to watch after her dad it becomes painfully clear that we are dealing with a great unspoken grief.

In the end Lizzie and her dad participate together in the Great Human Bird Competition, a sort of flugtag where people adorn themselves in wings and rockets and whatnot and attempt to traverse a body of water propelled under their own power. Dad's obsession with flying at first seems a bi-product of a mental break-down, but as Lizzie (and eventually her Headmaster) discover as they participate in the competition, the act of faith necessary to hurl yourself into the world is exactly what they both need in order to move ahead with their lives. Feeling more alive than before, they reconnoiter back at Aunt Doreen's for some dumplings and find themselves dancing with a new-found joy, a joy that leaves them lighter than birds and flying off the ground.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Blaze on November 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is hilarious on the surface, and, underneath, is the most beautiful description of grief that I've ever seen.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nicola Mansfield on April 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Reason for Reading: I am quite fond of David Almond as an author. He reminds me of Roald Dahl with his mixture of humour and darkness but he isn't so obvious as Dahl.

This certainly is a quite a beautiful story. Using metaphors and imagery of flight and birds to help a father and daughter overcome the grief from the death of the mother makes for a touching story. On the surface we have a silly, whimsical, humorous story of a dad who is turning into a bird so he can win the Great Human Bird Competition, right down to living on bugs and worms and building a huge nest in the middle of the kitchen floor. Underneath the story is about a man who literally looses his mind when his wife dies and becomes obsessed with birds while the daughter takes on the parental role of looking after him, to see him through this rough patch.

The story is hilarious with the antics of dad; then enter Auntie Doreen and her baking dumplings as a cure for everything that ails one and throwing them when it doesn't work. There is a riot of colour and silliness when the Great Human Bird Competition begins and we see and watch all the other contestants as they try to fly over the river to win money in all sorts of contraptions and get ups. But there is a small darkness beneath everything that gradually lightens throughout the story. The mom's death is only barely even referred to; the words death and die are never used. Underlying the dad's silly behaviour is his grief, to the astute reader, and underneath the daughter's looking after her dad is the need to know he is still there for her. They both need to know that though mom is gone they still have each other. Through the use of birds, flight, metaphors and other references to going up they let their grief go and one can even feel a religiousness in the upward/skyward theme if one's thoughts turn that way. A touching, yet hilarious story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Book 'Em Blog on June 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
A bit different. This story comes to us from England and is about trying to survive after loss.

To deal with the loss of mam, Dad decides to enter a human bird contest. His daughter joins with him, and it becomes a story about the power of love between parent and child.

I enjoyed the story and the writing. Like I said, it was a bit different, but it was worth my time.
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By D. Smith on July 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read this book to two of my grandchildren. We have all thoroughly enjoyed the silliness of the story. The subtle underlying context gives a real poignancy to the story.
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