Be Light Like a Bird
Capstone Young Readers
After Wren’s father unexpectedly dies, her mother rips her away from her only home. Move after move takes Wren further and further across the country, and Wren can’t help but wonder what her mom is running from. Then Wren finds a beautiful pond to secret herself away to watch birds the way she and her father used to do. When Wren discovers the local landfill owner plans to demolish her sacred place, Wren vows to stop him.
The birdwatching elements felt very natural to me. I’m not an experienced birdwatcher by any means, but my daughter and I kept a journal for about a year of birds we saw behind our house in a canal (a surprising number and variety, actually.) So I enjoyed that part of the story, and it definitely resonated with me.
Wren and her mom deal with the grief over losing her dad in very different ways. For a time it becomes a wedge between them. Wren meets a boy in school who also lost a parent, and they bond over those losses and how they’ve changed their surviving parents. It’s a really healing experience for Wren. So is her campaign to save the pond. I think the emotional journey of grief and the outward journey to save the pond balanced the story in a great way.
There is one part where Wren’s mom reveals a secret about her father that’s very hurtful. I really struggled with that decision. It didn’t feel like the right call to me, so that kind of took me out of the story a bit as I wrestled with why it bothered me so much. More details in the spoiler section.
Other than that, though, I enjoyed the story a lot. Both grief and love for our environment are really worthy topics for a novel, and Be Light Like a Bird handles both very well.
Wren speaks with a man who purchased her dad’s old car. He has some Native American ancestry. The story briefly talks about the importance of respecting Native American burial grounds and what items might be found there.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
See spoiler section. There’s nothing sexually graphic, but Wren does learn something traumatic about her parents’ relationship.
Wren’s mom tells her that her father was having an affair. She mentions having found romantic letters and states that he planned to leave Wren and her mom. Wren is, of course, devastated. It does explain her mom’s anger and impulsive behaviors, but I couldn’t help wishing that Wren hadn’t had to deal with that information, especially so close to losing her dad.