What do you remember about middle school (formerly called junior high)? Loneliness? Unfairness? Wanting to be cool? How about your parents divorcing or not being allowed to ask questions? Did you ever try to get revenge against the injustices of the world? All of these elements play a role in Monika Schröder's middle grade novel, Be Light Like a Bird.
When 12-year-old Wren's father comes crashing to earth in a flying accident, she is devastated. She's lost her birding buddy, her dad, and the parent she was closer too. Her mom is strangely cold, cleaning out papers, donating clothes, and refusing to discuss the loss with Wren. It only makes matters worse when Wren and her mother move three times in less than a year, leaving town each time the mother breaks up with the man she is dating. Wren is tired of trading one middle school for another. She faces loneliness, peer pressure, some mean-girl bullying, and a geek with his own loneliness issues. She finds an issue she cares about and starts a petition for preserving a wetland filled with wild birds that is about to be converted into a garbage dump. By the end of the story, Wren is learning to trust peers and adults, including her mom, in the same way she trusted her dad.
I'm always amazed at the way middle-grade and young-adult authors can tug on heartstrings with a few words. Schröder does this well. The stakes are real and Wren's struggles are authentic. Schröder, a teacher, has tapped into the concerns and emotions of several types of middle grade students. The good guys are all three-dimensional. The book contains important messages about speaking your truth and doing the right thing. Wren will be a role model for many quiet middle graders. Schröder recognizes and respects her audience. Like all good MG and YA novels, Be Light Like a Bird can be read and appreciated by adults as well as the pre-teens it's written for.
Monika Schröder grew up in Germany. She has worked as elementary school teacher and librarian in international schools in Egypt, Chile, the Sultanate of Oman, and India. She currently lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina with her husband and dog. You can find out more about her her website.
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