My Dad's a Birdman by David Almond
|My Dad's a Birdman by David Almond|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: David Almond blurs the boundaries of fantasy and fiction for younger readers in this slightly surreal but very heartwarming celebration of the healing power of love. Recommended for sharing, but also for those beginning to read alone.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 128||Date: October 2007|
|Publisher: Walker Books Ltd|
|External links: Author's website|
Lizzie's had to take another day off school. She can't go; her father needs her. Lizzie's father has needed her quite a bit since his wife, Lizzie's mother, died. He's finding things difficult and he's retreated into the only world in which he feels happy and safe - the world of birds. Lizzie's father wants to fly. To this end, he's made himself some wings - They were made of feathers and string and bits of old shirt and bits of bamboo and wire and thread and cardboard and feathers and feathers and feathers. They're lovely wings, but he's really not to be trusted with them. So, much as Auntie Doreen and headmaster Mr Mint disapprove, Lizzie is staying at home.
But even Lizzie can't stop her father when Mr Poop arrives in town. Mr Poop is running the Great Human Bird Competition and once he hears the announcement, there's no stopping Lizzie's father. He will win. He will fly. And he'll do it with his wings and his faith. Whatever Auntie Doreen says. Whatever Mr Mint says. And whatever Lizzie says. And in Lizzie's book, if you can't beat 'em, you might as well...
If you've ever read William Wharton's Birdy, you'll have an idea of what My Dad's A Birdman is like. Traumatic events - in Birdy it's war and in Almond's book it's bereavement - can shatter a person's grip on reality. A fantasy world can seem so much more attractive, and so much safer. It's a comfort to retreat into it. It's heart-wrenchingly sad, but it's also entirely understandable. David Almond loves to blur the distinction between reality and fantasy and here, in this tragi-comedy-with-a-happy-ending, he does it most wonderfully for children younger than his usual audience. My Dad's A Birdman is perfect for reading aloud; it's dramatic, it's funny and the dialogue just begs to be acted out. It's also approachable enough for any newly confident reader to take on alone. Polly Dunbar's gorgeous, energetic, and slightly wistful illustrations do more than add to the appeal; they wrap around it just perfectly.
It's slightly surreal - how many fathers do you see eating worms for their breakfast? - but perhaps more a la Louis Sachar than a la Roald Dahl. Here, the adults aren't perfect, but they certainly aren't mean and they all have Lizzie's best interests at heart. Even Mr Poop, the competition promoter, wants to see her succeed and be safe. This brings us back to Almond's other preoccupation; the redeeming power of love. In this world, it's alright if things go wrong from time to time, it's alright to be sad from time to time, it's alright to be just plain odd. The most important thing is to give love and open yourself to receiving it. And if you do that, things will be ok in the long run. What better message is there than that?
My thanks to the kind people at Walker for sending the book.
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