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
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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