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The Wishbird by Gabrielle Wang, Penguin, $14.95

ALL books tell a story of one kind or another, but not all books are written by storytellers.

How can you tell? It’s different for every reader, but for me it’s when I’ve reached a certain point in a book and I realise the author has caught me in the fine webbing of a good story. I feel immersed in the world on the page, I care about the characters and maybe most importantly of all – I want to know what happens next.

The Wishbird is one of those books. It tells the story of Oriole, a young orphan girl who has spent her life in the Forest of Birds with her guardian Mellow (a wishbird), and a flock of avian companions. Life is sweet – she’s surrounded by birdsong and protected by all the creatures in the forest. But when Mellow’s health suddenly declines, and Oriole has a prophetic dream, their peaceful life in the forest comes to an end. As Mellow slowly dies, he talks more about his past – and Oriole realises that in order to save him, she must travel to the City of Soulless, a place where music and colour are banned, to find answers that will change her life forever.

The Wishbird is not only full of rich characters (especially Boy and Lady Butterfly), engaging story arcs, and gorgeous line drawings, it is a layered, thoughtful book about finding courage in the face of daunting challenges, the power of friendship, the importance of family, and seeing past the superficial. Wang’s writing is lyrical, evocative and honed, and every detail has a purpose, it either moves the story along, or adds depth to the story.

The Wishbird may have been written for younger readers in mind (ages seven and up), but it’s really a book for anyone who wants to be gently drawn in and taken away by a true storyteller.

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