Celebrated Dutch children’s author van Leeuwen brings her enigmatic recent classic to an American audience.
One day, avid bird watcher Warren finds a strange creature under a bush. “This was a bird in the shape of a little girl. Or a little girl in the shape of a bird. Or something in between.” He takes the bird-girl home to his reclusive wife, Tina, and the couple, who always hoped for children, form an immediate attachment to the creature they name Beedy, after its mispronunciation of “Birdy.” When Beedy flies away one day without a good-bye, Warren and Tina, in a fashion much like Alice’s chase after the white rabbit, begin to search for their bird-girl. On their quest, they meet a host of equally downtrodden individuals, including Lottie, whose single father often leaves her alone while traveling for work, a depressed rescue worker and a boy obsessed with spirits and ghosts. Together, they not only look for Beedy but form a fierce bond of friendship and love. Van Leeuwen’s quiet prose beautifully describes the characters’ sentiments as each also finds wonder along the way. Her line drawings, quirky by American standards, add a playful nuance to the already layered story. Adults will better understand Beedy’s need for freedom and a parent’s difficulty in letting go.
Willing readers of all ages will delight in the story’s unusual surprises. (Fiction. 9-12)