Laws against flying cannot quell a young bird’s desire to soar in Anderson’s debut children’s book.
None of the birds of Tree City know how to fly, so the only way they can reach their nests is by climbing a vast, spiral staircase. Charlie Sparrow’s father, a second-generation repairman, keeps those stairs in working order. One morning, young Charlie accompanies his father on a job and takes a tumble off a high branch. At that moment, something stirs within him, and he calmly spreads his wings floats to the ground. The experience leaves Charlie exhilarated and eager to try again, but his parents are horrified. They consult Dr. Nightingale, who diagnoses Charlie with “Leaping Syndrome,” described as “an extreme and dangerous urge to leap off things.” Just before Charlie is about to undergo the doctor’s treatment—a plucking procedure—he jumps out the window and again safely floats to the ground. Soon a mysterious bird in a long coat and fedora coaxes him into an old tree (which may raise parents’ eyebrows). He reveals himself to be Dr. Nightingale’s brother, but he holds an opposing view of Leaping Syndrome and encourages birds to follow their illicit muse. He introduces Charlie to a circle of other Leapers who engage in clandestine group therapy. Later, in the Leaping Cavern, Charlie’s unique floating ability puts him in the spotlight. Ultimately, Dr. Nightingale’s brother is put on trial, but the story ends on an uplifting note, with Charlie becoming the society’s designated flying instructor. Although children may applaud the group’s fortitude and Charlie’s perseverance, they may wonder why a society of birds doesn’t know how to fly, or why the birds have their wings regularly clipped. However, the story is nicely descriptive and its pace never falters. Anderson has also created fun, original and quirky characters, and children will likely enjoy their alliterative names, such as Wendy Warbler, Fanny Finch and Ronny Raven. The author’s accompanying pencil sketches are simplistic, but representational and expressive.
An intriguing children’s story about a tiny bird earning his wings.