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Birdie's Book (The Fairy Godmother Academy #1) Paperback – August 25, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Grade 4–6—Shortly after her family moves from California to New York, 12-year-old Birdie decides that it is time to meet her maternal grandmother, from whom her mother has been estranged. Granny Mo turns out to be a warm and wonderful person who shares the child's love of plants. And as it turns out, they also share a deep family connection with the fairy world, called Aventurine. After Birdie inadvertently travels there, she meets Kerka, and together the girls attempt to rid an ancient and powerful tree of a life-destroying blight. Aventurine is filled with glamorous but uninteresting fairies, lovely scents, and flowers, and a magic wardrobe filled with the most fabulous clothes ever. Birdie's adventures here are uninspired and seem influenced by the online social network that is being marketed as the companion to this series opener. Rather, it is Birdie's growing relationship with her grandmother, her worries about her new life in New York, and her love of plants that ring most true and are the most enjoyable to read about, even if these sections are slower paced. Of possible interest to undemanding fairy fans.—Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library END --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Jan Bozarth danced in a ballet company at eleven, started a dream journal at thirteen, joined a surf club at sixteen, studied flower essences at eighteen, and went on to learn music, art, and poetry in college. As a girl she dreamed of a life that would weave these different interests together. Now she is a grandmother who writes stories and songs for young people and often works with her own adult children who are musicians and artists in Austin, Texas.
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Top Customer Reviews
She's loving it and I can hardly get her to put it down!
Then, the book's technical writing flaws began to become so blatant, they started interrupting my enjoyment of the story. Time and again, without any attempt at explanation, each of the book's protagonists would just somehow "know" something and act on that sudden eruption of "knowledge" without any explanation of where it all came from. Some readers might generously label those episodes as "intuitions" but intuition is based on previous experiences - experiences that were never hinted at nor explained in any form, nor was any logical clarification surrounding these mysterious flashes of "knowledge" ever provided either.
It left me, as the reader, feeling as though I was a third party secretly overhearing a story conversation going on between the author and a mysterious, yet fully informed, other party. In other words, I felt very much an outsider to the story, rather than an active participant within it. As such, I felt frustrated by the frequent gaps in disclosures regarding the rules and world-building structures of Aventurine.
There was no consistency regarding how knowledge was obtained or passed along, nor how/why there erupted extraordinary roller coasters of emotions, midway through the adventure which abruptly ended once Birdie returned to the "real world". Basic facts such as Birdie's unusual forced weekend study of Latin are never discussed or explained. This leaves the reader unclear whether it was related to a religious requirement, an academic agenda, or some other quirky need. Clearly, it is extraordinarily unusual for a child of her age to be able to both accurately identify a broad range of plants using conventional English names, let alone the Latin ones, on top of it. Yet, the reader is given almost no explanation for how/why Birdie already had such knowledge, especially as her mom was so opposed to everything connected to the world of Mo (which would suggest gardening/plants, as well).
Both Birdie and Kerka were amazingly incurious characters who repeatedly failed to ask significant questions either of themselves, each other, or of anyone else they came in contact with. With all of the unfamiliar settings, objects, and experiences they were going through, their IQ levels would have had to be subnormal for them to have gone through so much with so few questions being asked or answered. Most preteens would never pursue any serious task/quest with so few questions asked or answered.
At the same time, the author somehow wants the reader to believe that children genuinely assess their own statements for levels of "whininess". Having worked with hundreds of children of all ages, as both an RN and K-8 teacher, I have yet to meet a child who is concerned about their level of complaints, except when they fear that such statements will invoke brutal punishments via the adults in their lives. Having peeked at another book in this series, it appears it is the author, herself, who despises children who complain. Apparently, both questions and complaints go against her value system, which I don't agree with nor find healthy.
The whole meaning behind the "Shadow Tree" and the dead plants surrounding it were neither explored nor explained, making most of the painful events that occurred there meaningless to the reader. Why was Kerka kidnapped by the "Shadow Tree" and her hair lopped off by the fern? What did those stinging lights represent and why didn't the fairy queen equip the girls better to protect themselves from all those attacking creatures in the "Shadow Land"? Clearly, both Mo and the fairy queen knew much more than they ever bothered to share with Birdie. Why did they both opt to withhold so much valuable, insightful information about Aventurine?
None of these questions and dozens of similar ones were even briefly raised or explained anywhere in the book. Birdie didn't seem the least bit upset that both her grandmother and mother had been withholding huge quantities of important family knowledge/history from her. I know of very few real-world kids who would be so nonchalant about the range and depth of family deceptions and lies that Birdie had unwittingly been living amongst.
It would have been far more reasonable for Birdie to have expressed a whole range of emotions upon returning to the "real world", rather than swinging wildly through emotions in the "dream world". After all, she had been used as an innocent "pawn" in her mother's war against her grandmother, since birth. The author doesn't want readers to seriously look at the impact of that choice on Birdie, so she just breezes right over it all, as though it's irrelevant and minor - a genuine fantasy, on the author's behalf.
The ending of the book was the weakest part of the whole project. Suddenly, Birdie's mom is rushing home from London to see her mom who'd she'd despised and spent decades describing as a "crazy old bat" to anyone who asked???? I understand that this is a fantasy book but this story's resolution is so far beyond believable as to make a joke of genuine family discord and painful, intergenerational events. No severely broken relationships are healed either this rapidly nor as miraculously as this one appears to. It takes a lot of time to rebuild trust and closeness after such huge family tears. Apparently, despite the author's age, she still has yet to learn this fact of life.
The superficiality of the ending and the quick, easy resolution of Birdie's grief about being yanked away from her treasured home, school, and friends in Califa, feels deeply disrespectful of the emotions and needs of children, to me. It's clear, from my perspective, that the author wants to breezily resolve several major traumas of childhood by "blowing a little fairy dust" upon them. Clearly, she doesn't have much depth to herself and, thus, doesn't sense much depth to the internal world of children, either.
There is so much potential in this book's setting, characters, fantasy world, and nature themes that could, theoretically, encourage, enrich, and engage readers who are making major adaptations to some of the greatest challenges of life. Sadly, the author doesn't yet live up to the potential of the world she's created. Hopefully, in future books, she will display much greater depth and sensitivity in her use of Aventurine as a source of healing, not only of children and families, but of nature/the planet, as well.
The writing style is similar, which is to say simple and straightforward and kid-friendly, but the story has been updated for a slightly older audience. There is, for example, some teen angst, and more personal drama and excitement.
The story is about Birdie's quest (Birdie Cramer Bright). Unbeknownst to her, her family has a strong history of magic, which unfortunately involves a terrible mistake which is killing the wonderous fairyland of Aventurine.
In order to fix this, Birdie must join forces with Kerka, a girl who is very much different than her; and the two of them must face off against dark forces and solve the mystery of how to repair the family talisman.
I really liked some of the aspects of this book. I liked, for instance, that Latin was introduced as a cool and positive thing. I liked that older people were revered and not ridiculed as they are in some books. And I liked that plant knowledge, like Latin, was presented in a positive light.
I think older girls are going to be drawn to the idea that sometimes they aren't going to understand what their parents are thinking. And that there parents were once kids like themselves, who sometimes made mistakes. (In this book, Birdies' mother denies her heritage! Something Birdie doesn't initially understand.)
Talking Points :::
This is a fun, light read that ought to be a hit with girls who like adventure and magic. There is light conflict as well as some inter-personal angst.
There is no real violence, nor anything too scary so that the book would be appropriate for younger readers, especially those who read above grade-level. (Note: there are one or two pages in the book that are in cursive. These might need 'translating'.)
The other point I would mention is that the book is not really 224 pages long. By my own count it is approximately 192 pages in length. The difference being that the publisher includes a sneak preview (love those!) into book #2, "Kerka's Book"" The Fairy Godmother Academy #2: Kerka's Book
mom and reviewer for BooksForKids-reviews
The Fairy Godmother Academy - Birdie's Book
* Accelerated Reading level :none found
* Paperback: 224 pages **(see note in Talking Points)