Summer and Bird
By Katherine Catmull
Middle grade, Ages 12 and up
Dutton Children’s Books, 2012
Additional formats: e-book
Booklist’s 2012 Top Ten First Novels for Youth
Two sisters, Summer and Bird, wake one morning and discover that both of their parents are missing. They search the house, the meadow, and the nearby creek. No Mom and no Dad. Together, they set off into the woods to find their parents, certain they haven’t gone far. Once in the forest, though, their quest takes a dark and mysterious turn. Summer and Bird are pulled into a strange world called Down. There, the birds can speak and songs are maps.
The tension between the sisters makes the journey hard on both. Their animosity toward each other causes stumbles, mishaps, and misunderstandings along the way. Summer is jealous of Bird who has a deep and meaningful connection to birds and even speaks their language, though all the birds in Down speak human. Bird envies Summer for being the oldest, a position that Summer exploits to her own benefit.
As they venture farther from home and deeper into Down, it becomes apparent that there are a number of puzzles to be solved besides locating their mom and dad. Who and where is the Bird Queen? Why are all of the birds locked out of the Green Home?
The sisters meet shape-shifting companions along the way who guide them toward their parents and, more importantly, help reconcile the sisters who grow more and more estranged. Their paths diverge when Bird abandons her sister for a quest of her own to join the evil Puppeteer, who is staging an overthrow of the missing Bird Queen. To find her little sis, Summer must scale every ravine of Down and every canyon of her fear.
The book unfolds in chapters that alternate between the sisters, yet each chapter of Summer and Bird explores discord and harmony, imbalance and alignment of the self, the family, and the earth. Katherine Catmull’s writing is whimsical, dreamy, and evocative. This book is a breathtaking fairytale and also remarkable for its nature writing. Here, the very Earth is alive, pulsing, and speaking our language. And perhaps even offering a map in the form of a song. GA
Listen to an audio excerpt from Summer and Bird