Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie

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Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A wonderful middle grade historical novel about the daughter of Scottish island crofters caught up in the gentrification (and clearance) of Victorian times. Fab central character and full of well-researched detail.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: January 2019
Publisher: Noisy Crow
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0857639103

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Bridie, or Little Bird as she prefers to be known, is a crofter's daughter living on the remote Scottish island of Tornish. Life is hard but often happy even though Little Bird struggles with the disability of a wasted arm and leg and often misses her mother, who died some time ago. Despite this, Little Bird has a warm and loving father, sisters to watch over her, a good friend in Will and a laird for whom she is a particular favourite. Little Bird knows every inch of her windswept, savagely beautiful island.

But something inside her longs to escape and Little Bird dreams of taking flight, right across the Atlantic to America. It's an impossible dream: her father promised her mother that he would see all their children settled on the island, safe from the depredations and urban poverty of the industrialising mainland. Little Bird's life is already mapped out and her future lies on her island of wild seas and craggy rocks.

And then the laird dies suddenly. And the new laird is not a friendly one. He disrespects island customs. He puts up rents. Even members of his own household want to escape him. And suddenly, the fortunes of Little Bird's family have changed. Just like that. Just with the premature death of one kindly man. Escape is no longer a dream; it's a necessity. Can Little Bird's family make it?

Oh, I loved, loved, loved Little Bird Flies. It's the first in a series and it sets the scene so beautifully. Little Bird, our central character, is wonderful. She's stubborn and obstinate and a free thinker, and she never allows her disability to hamper her. At the same time, she's kindly and protective and will do anything in her power to help the people she loves. I loved the vivid descriptions of crofting life, the stifling etiquette of a Victorian gentry household, and the natural beauty of Tornish. The whole book creates a living tapestry of time and place. It draws you in as much as the plot and the characters do.

The historical setting is well researched and full of detail - from the ways of the crofters through the rigid social strictures of the gentry to the overall political background as Highland and Island life was replaced by land reform in Scotland. Readers will learn a great deal by reading Little Bird Flies.

This has all the makings of a wonderful historical series. It's engaging and interesting and exciting, with a memorable central character. And, you can tell, it's written with love. Thank you, Karen McCrombie, for such a lovely book. It's one for any middle grade reader who loves history and a good adventure.

If you're interested in Scottish history, you might also enjoy The Witching Hour by Elizabeth Laird, which is about the witch hunts of the 1700s and the persecution of the Covenanters and also has a fabulous central character. If the love of nature appeals to you, you could look at the lovely Sky Hawk by Gill Lewis.

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Buy Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie at


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