Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Bird Within Me


The story is inspired by paintings, letters and diaries of the Swedish painter Berta Hansson.
There is a lot of sadness in the text: Berta is labelled as useless, she is dissatisfied with her art, especially as it does not prevent her mother, who suffers from TB,  eventually dying. Berta and her siblings have to constantly be tested for the disease and after Mother’s death the house has to be thoroughly cleaned.
We have clues that the story is set in the past: the hold the TB has, the visit of the mother to the sanatorium, we see older sister Julia putting on stockings and we see some delightful extracts from the fashion pages of an old newspaper. Father’s attitude is a little old-fashioned; Why should a girl go away to be educated?
Yet Berta manages with the doctor’s help to go away to study art.
The illustrations represent the type of work Berta would have been doing at the age she is in the story.
Who will read this text? It is rather long for a picture book and has rather more text that we would expect in a story for pre-school children. Indeed the content is more suitable for an older child or even a young adult or adult. Yet the pictures, the story and the text work together to give us an authentic picture of Berta’s life.  It is a text that the reader can return to time and time again.    
This is a highly illustrated with full colour pictures. The pictures add to the story. There are sixty-five double spreads including end-matter which add up to the 228 pages of core text.  
At the end of the book is a twelve page biography of Berta. 

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