Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Each Little Bird That Sings, by Deborah Wiles


Look at me go! Two posts in one week. What on earth? I may not write as often as I used to, but I would like to make note of particular books that stood out to me that I've read and think others would be curious to know more about.

I know I've said this before (and I will totally say it again because it was A Very Impacting Thing) but I was once told that I liked books that were rather on the childish side and weren't as worthy of my reading time as I might believe. I disagreed then and I disagree even more heartily now. I'm really glad that when my kids were little I read as many Middle Grade fiction books as I did. Not only did I enjoy them but I poured a lot of time and energy into previewing books and building up a Legacy Library for my family. My kids are now teens and pre-teens. When they come to me and tell me that they finished one read and are looking for another, we can just take a quick little jaunt over to our home library shelves and find another. I've already read (most of) them and have a good idea what is there and am not scrambling for information.

Also, let's be real. I like Middle Grade fiction best and I now happily and very boldly embrace that fact. Don't let anyone tell you that the genre you like to read isn't worth your time. (Unless it's the Twilight Series or 50 Shades and then we need to have a serious sit down.)

I like Middle Grade Fiction but I don't care for much of what is being published these days. Picking up titles published anytime after the year 2010, I feel, is moderately risky business for the more conservative reader. I haven't spent a lot of time previewing new releases in recent years. That explained, I was out thrifting and I came across this title Each Little Bird That Sings, by Deborah Wiles for about the fifteenth time and took that as a sign that I should buy it and check it out (which I proceeded to do). 

The other afternoon I was looking for a quick read so I snatched this one off the shelf and it occupied the next hour and a half of my life. I'm not remotely sorry about it. Now, if you should pick up Every Little Bird That Sings on my recommendation know that you will open it, begin reading, and if you know me at all, you'll begin to wonder what I saw in it. Before you get antsy, hear me out.

This title opens up in the usual modern (2010+) way. The writing style begins as something I consider cheap, flippant, and too "grabby" in an effort to capture the reader's immediate attention. Authors these days have a way of dumbing down their words, appealing to a more base sense of humor which hardly requires anything from the reader. Another way to say that is that the writing style is unrefined. If you yourself also dislike modern novels, you perhaps know what I'm talking about. I almost didn't make it past the third chapter of this read but I decided to give the book a go mostly because I didn't feel like moving off the couch to find another book. What luck my laziness has brought me! In the end, while I didn't find this book to have a brilliance about it, I did find it to be very curious in that the entire subject of this book is death. 

Our protagonist is ten-year-old Comfort Snow who lives with her family at the local gravesite in the local funeral home. Everything in their life revolves around the topic of death. As the story begins we learn how how death is a very normal part of life for Comfort's family. Dead bodies are simply there, but they are not creepy. Comfort is nonplussed over this fact of life until her own elderly relatives die and their family is forced to say goodbye to those they personally love.

Wiles deals with this topic adroitly, using a ten year old to describe how children feel about death and how resilient they can actually be when it comes to this topic. Death is not, by any means, fun. Personally, we've had enough rounds of dealing with death in our family that I'd just as soon not talk about. I don't like death. It hurts. It is a reality of life and also a tender topic. That's what compelled me to go on reading this book. While Wiles' writing style is verging on flippant at the start, she settles down into her story and discusses the topic in a way that young readers can easily understand. Death does hurt. And yet it is a part of each and every beautiful life and nothing that we should ignore or shut out of our conversation and reflection. The story is so heavily focused on death that I found this book to be an interesting tool which others might wish to know about. You might read or discuss with your own kids. It is also a title I feel pretty confident that you would want to understand before you just blindly handed it over to a child to read on their own. Hence my little PSA here. 

Topics to be aware of:

  • Death in general
  • Death of elderly relatives
  • Death of friendship
  • Death of pets

Each Little Bird That Sings didn't turn out to be the light and fluffy read I was expecting. Nor was it flippant. For introducing the topic, or possibly talking through it with your kids, I found it balanced. I do plan to keep a copy on our bookshelves. I think our kids will find it a little on the strange side but it's interesting and compelling as well. I've never read anything quite like it and felt it was worth a mention for you to take with and do what you will.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love reading Children;s books also. They are a breath of rfesh air after reading a book
that I found intense.

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