Skip to main content

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. 


Popular Posts

Hilary McKay’s Fairy Tales

2017, fluent reader, Key Stage 2, ages 9-11, upper primary
Here are some familiar fairy stories though the titles may fool you: Rapunzel becomes The Tower and the Bird, Rumpelstiltskin becomesStraw into Gold, and Cinderella is Roses Around the Palace. We are also offered some rather interesting details about some well-known stories. The mayor of the town with the rats tells us how the children who replaced the lost ones were much more amenable than the ones who were piped away. A young girl has a sliver of the looking-glass that once belonged to a wicked queen.Whilst the girl has chickenpox her grandmother tells her Snow White’s story. It is true she assures her granddaughter. How does she know? Because she is Snow White. Hansel and Gretel tell the story of what they did in their holidays.
There is perhaps an assumption that the reader will be familiar with the original stories. Certainly they are amusing and not just for the young reader.Adults can enjoy them too. 
This is quite a …

The Wierdstone of Brisingamen

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

Flambards by K M Peyton