THE WINTER OF THE BIRDS by Helen Cresswell
Kirkus Star


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Cresswell's gifted writing has often outpaced her ideas, but here her arresting bird images and shifting viewpoints form a perfect bridge between spellbinding style and solid human content. The scene, neither obtrusively nor accidentally, is one St. Savior's Street, where an old man watches alone in his attic for the ""terrible and purposeful"" steel birds which come down at night on wires, hissing, striking, threatening. . . where young Edward Flack, who reads of heroes and practices to become one, views the old man's vision literally and in grand and epic terms. . . where Edward's formerly drab Uncle Alfred shows up suddenly with a real hero (and likely saint), free-wheeling, exuberant, red-haired Finn who has just saved him from suicide by drowning. . . and where the boy's cross, straight-laced step-mum, comically outraged at first when her fringed and beaded brother arrives looking like the ""shah of Russia,"" is soon totally won over by Finn and convinced of the ""tin birds'"" malevolent reality. Thus is St. Savior's Street transformed, with resident after resident buying and raising pigeons ""in retaliation"" and everyone turning out on New Year's Eve, with bells and song and falling snow, to release the white ""birds of day"" which must drive away the evil ones and bring joy to the now dying old man they once had shunned. And so Edward, aware now that ""true valor is inside your head and not a matter of muscles, etc.,"" returns to his RAF exercises and his daily feats of daring. Suspense, humor, gentle irony--in a beautiful coming together.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1976
Page count: 243pp
Publisher: Macmillan