26 March 2015

Review: Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

Nightbird by Alice HoffmanAlice Hoffman is well known for her many best-selling novels, including The Dovekeepers and Practical Magic. Because I've loved everything I've read by her, I was curious about her latest book, which was written for a middle-grade audience.

• Quick take: The Nightbird is a magical story of family, friendship, love, and self-acceptance. It's set in modern times, but has roots in folk tales and legends of witches. Hoffman has written another winner.

• General plot: Twig Fowler was born in New York City, but when she was very little, her mother (Sophie) relocated them to the 200-year-old family farmstead in the Berkshires. Twig's father was left behind, but her brother (James) was secreted into the house under cover of dark, forbidden to ever venture outside or to be seen. The Fowlers stay to themselves, guarding their secrets well, until the Hall family moves onto the adjoining abandoned property, upsetting the very foundations of Twig's life.

• Characters: Twig—a tall, lanky twelve-year-old—accepts her mother's rules, understanding the importance of protecting her older brother, who is hidden from sight because of a generations-old family curse. Yet when she meets the neighbor girls, she cannot help but crave the pleasures of a true friendship. James is caught between his love for his family and his need to accept himself for what and who he is, even if no one else can. One night, however, he sees the older Hall girl from his window and begins to think about risking everything for the chance to meet her.

from Nightbird review by www.BethFishReads.com• Themes, audience: Although Hoffman had middle graders in mind when she wrote Nightbird, there is no age limit for loving this charming story. There is a little bit of magic and a witch's curse that must be undone, but you don't have to like fantasy to care for Twig and to be interested the quirky townsfolk. The main plot line focuses on the Fowler family's secrets, but as Twig gets to know Julia Hall, the two take it upon themselves to solve the local mystery of who's responsible for a streak of petty crimes.

• Discussion points: Nightbird would make a great book club choice for both young readers and adults. Besides the obvious topics of family, secrets, witches, and friendship, groups could also discuss environmental issues (a subplot to the novel), small town life, tolerance, and self-acceptance.

• Recommendation: As I said on Twitter over the weekend: Alice Hoffman does middle grade perfectly. Nightbird is many layered and emotionally engaging. More important, Twig is a character you wish you knew in real life, especially if she'd let you have a piece of one her mother's famous pies.

• Extra: Hoffman included an apple pie recipe at the end of the book. When apple season returns to central Pennsylvania, I plan to give it a try.

Published by Random House / Wendy Lamb Books, 2015
ISBN-13: 9780385389587
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Kailana 3/26/15, 7:13 AM  

Glad this was good! Hoffman used to be on my auto-buy list, but she has fallen off in more recent years. I need to catch up with some of her newer stuff!

(Diane) bookchickdi 3/26/15, 7:27 AM  

I like Alice Hoffman's novels too, and was curious about her middle grade books. I'm glad you liked this one.

Vicki 3/26/15, 8:59 AM  

Glad you enjoyed Nightbird so much!

Daryl 3/27/15, 9:38 AM  

sounds good . i don't know why i haven't ever read her ... thanks!

Unknown 3/28/15, 1:43 PM  

I did really like this one when I read it a few weeks ago.

Stacie 3/28/15, 2:09 PM  

I will have to tell some of the middle school students about this book. It sounds great!

Melissas Eclectic Bookshelf 3/30/15, 6:58 PM  

I really enjoyed this one as well :)

Unknown 4/5/15, 4:24 AM  

Hoffman's writing is just amazing, as usual.Magical is just the best way to describer her stories. I don't usually read books for younger readers but I was curious. She doesn't dumb things down. This is a perfect story to to introduce young readers to a great writer. I've never read Hoffman's YA books but now I want to. I envy new readers having so many fantastic books ahead of them.

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