A Many Feathered Thing – Lisa Gerlits

I would have talked about the wings. His and mine and everybody’s.

In order to become tortured enough to consider herself to be a real artist Clara decides she needs to do hard things. She begins by doing the hardest thing she can imagine, talking to a stranger, Mr Vogelman, who is rumoured to collect teeth.

Knocking on Mr Vogelman’s door isn’t the only scary thing Clara needs to face. There’s a new girl in her class, her friendship with Orion (who she’s known her entire life) is changing and, possibly scariest of all, she needs to find her voice so she can deliver a presentation at school.

Drawing had saved me where my voice failed.

I had planned on reading this book sooner but put it off for several weeks. From the first sentence I knew that no matter what else I found in this book, an ugly cry was certain and I wasn’t in the right head space at the time. Now I’m on the other side of my ugly cry and I can say that although there were several times where it hurt to read this book, hope was also threaded through it.

I loved Clara’s best friend, Orion. His integrity and loyalty endeared him to me and I wanted to watch him as he focused on making things and worked on his intricate knots. I liked Clara most of the time but was anxious for her to pay more attention to other peoples’ struggles and be a better friend. I’d like to spend more time with Elise, the new girl in Clara’s class, who sometimes behaved as though she was much older than eleven.

“You’ve got to have something inside you that no one can take away”

Birdman, as we come to know Mr Vogelman as, teaches Clara about much more than art.

“Every effort is valuable. We must not rub out our failures. They are most important to our success.”

Although I managed to catch a few glimpses of his life outside of his friendship with Clara, I would have liked to have learned more about him. He had a complexity that I wanted to be explored further.

While I understood why this was the case, Frouke’s character felt two dimensional until very near the end of the story. Even now I’m not entirely sure what her relationship was to Birdman … Housekeeper? Friend?

At its heart this is a book about friendships and having the courage to face the hard things. It’s also about finding ways to connect with people, even if it’s through failed knock-knock jokes. It’s about tying knots and unravelling them. It’s about seeing, truly seeing, by looking deeper and continuing to look even when you think you’ve understood all there is to see. It’s about hope and love.

“Love is not one shape. It is not always a red heart. Sometimes it is a tree. Or a bird. Or a bicycle bell.”

I’m always drawn to books where children connect with and learn from older people. I’m especially keen when I get the opportunity to peek into the lives of the people who live in the neighbourhood’s scary house. You know the one. It’s the house that children avoid on Halloween. There are rumours about the horrors that may befall you if you wind up on the wrong side of the door. The outcasts, the recluses, the mysterious. Birdman is one of those people. I dare you not to fall in love with him.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Capstone Editions, an imprint of Capstone, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Eleven-year-old Clara is known as the girl who draws, but she’s not tortured enough to become a real artist. Her only suffering, besides embarrassment over her real name Clarity Kartoffel, German for Clarity Potato is a crippling inability to speak in public. When Clara and her oldest friend, Orion break their neighbor’s glass gazing ball, Clara decides that in order to suffer like a true artist, she will do every hard thing in her path … starting with knocking on scary old Mr. Vogelman’s door. That’s when she meets Birdman. That’s when she sees his swirling painting. And that’s when everything changes.

To pay for the broken glass ball, Clara begins working for Birdman in his atelier. He challenges her to throw away her eraser and draw what she sees, not what she wants to see. But as Clara discovers, seeing, really seeing is hard. Almost as difficult as befriending the new girl at school, or navigating awkward feelings for Orion or finding the courage to speak in front of the entire class. But little does Clara know, the biggest challenges are yet to come. To cope with tragedy, she will have to do more than be brave. As Birdman teaches her, she will have to bring the hope. 

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