Nightbird by Alice Hoffman. | My copy: egalley, ~208 pages, Wendy Lamb Books (Random House Children’s), March 2015. | Source: The publisher via NetGalley. | View on Goodreads here.
*I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Wendy Lamb Books and Random House Children’s!
An enchanting novel from bestselling author Alice Hoffman: a charmed New England village, a family secret, and a friendship destined to defeat a witch.
“Some things could only be found in Sidwell it seemed: pink apples, black owls, and my brother, James.”
Twelve-year-old Twig’s town in the Berkshires is said to hide a winged beast, the Monster of Sidwell, and the rumors draw as many tourists as the town’s famed pink apple orchards. Twig lives in the orchard with her mysterious brother James and her reclusive mother, a baker of irresistible apple pies. Because of a family secret, an ancient curse,Twig has had to isolate herself from other kids. Then a family with two girls, Julia and Agate, moves into the cottage next door. They are descendants of the witch who put the spell on Twig’s family. But Julia turns out to be Twig’s first true friend, and her ally in trying to undo the curse and smooth the path to true love for Agate and James.
I really enjoyed Nightbird. This is Alice Hoffman’s first middle grade novel, and it was a lovely escapade into witchcraft, magical realism, and friends and family. While Twig is our protagonist, a spunky, smart twelve-year-old, the book is about the curse set upon all the men in her family, and the ominous mischief being made by the town “monster”.
Twig’s mother, a superbly talented pie baker (seriously, this woman can cook!), is overprotective and suspicious to the absolute max, but for a very real reason: Twig has an older brother, James, who is cursed with brilliant black wings. They’ve kept him hidden in the house, away from sight, for years; no one in the town of Sidwell knows he exists. And with the town “monster” causing fear and stirring up trouble, it’s even more crucial for James to remain hidden. Some people are so disturbed they’re threatening to hunt down the “monster”, like, literally hunt. Then, new neighbors move in next-door, a sweet family with two daughters — one Twig’s age, the other James’s age. And it just so happens that Julia, the younger sister, and Agate, the older one, are descendants of the witch who cursed Twig and James’s family generations ago.
Nightbird is a very well-written story that perfectly suits its age group. (Yes, James and Agate seem to like like each other, but we don’t really see them much. Which was a disappointment because their relationship was probably incredibly interesting. I would have also liked to know James better. What must it be like to live your whole life cooped up in your house, living with a pair of giant wings?) I loved the snippets of back story about the witch’s curse and Twig’s mom — these parts of the story felt very fairy tale-like. The book didn’t knock my socks off or surprise me, but I liked all the characters and the small town setting. The plot was predictable, but never dull, and I figured out the reveal at the end, though this didn’t make the book any less enjoyable. There were a few plot points that didn’t feel particularly believable or logical, and I wish could have been fleshed-out more. Like, Collie should have played a bigger role, I think. I sympathized and completely understood, but his whole charade seemed a bit sidelined — I always felt like the book’s main focus was Twig’s family secret about James. But besides a few parts that could have really been elaborated on, Nightbird is an enchanting novel that I’m very happy to have read. ♦
So tell me…
Have you read Nightbird? If not, would you want to read it now? Have you read any of Alice Hoffman’s other books? Comment below letting me know! And, as always, happy reading!