Fairy tales are fantastic things to which many of us cling for the simplicity and safety of childhood that they are often associated with. Fantasy worlds filled with monsters and magical beings seem too good to be true and as such offer a way to escape from the monotony of real life. But in Alice Hoffman’s Nightbird the fantastic elements included in fairy tales are a reality in the town of Sidwell.
12 year old Twig lives in Sidwell, where there is supposedly a monster that stalks the town and is blamed for when things go missing. With a town history that boasts a witch, the idea that magic and monsters still exist doesn’t seem too outlandish–particularly when Twig’s older brother, whose existence isn’t known by other townspeople, has wings as part of the family curse brought on by the witch of Sidwell, Agnes Early. When the Hall family moves into the witch’s cottage next door to Twig’s house, her family’s life will change forever, especially since the Halls are descendants of Agnes Early.
The story is well-written and keeps the mystery twisting to keep younger readers’ attention. The characters are vivid, dynamic, and well described such that you have a thorough idea of who they are and how they would behave in a given situation. While the ultimate twists and resolution were rather predictable, especially for an older reader, they were well timed and revealed. While the story itself is entertaining, the subtext is good for being able to teach lessons of prejudice and self-worth to younger audiences.
Overall, I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.