Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schroder

Be Light Like a Bird41Q13tYaniL__SX353_BO1,204,203,200_Be Light Like a Bird

Monika Schroder, Author

Capstone Young Readers, Fiction, Sep. 1, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Grief, Bereavement, Mother and daughter, Moving, Family relationships, Friendships, Birdwatching, Nature

Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Wren buries roadkill to make herself feel better. Her ritual begins after her father is killed in a plane crash and she never has the opportunity to say goodbye. Her mother tells Wren to pack up her belongings and forces her to leave their home in Georgia and drive north on I-75 in search of a new life. Their first stop is in Chattanooga, Tennessee, then Wapakoneta, Ohio, and finally Pyramid, Michigan, near the Canadian border. With each stop, Wren starts a new school. By the time they reach Pyramid, Wren is determined that this is where their journey will end. She’s tired of being the new girl in school and she wants a place to call home. Her mom finds a job in a retirement home and Wren and her mother work to build a new life. Wren has a good feeling about Pyramid. She discovers a magical place in a forest with a pond and a lot of birds.  She pulls out a bird-watching journal her father has given her and begins to record her sightings. Wren discovers that her perfect place is called Pete’s Pond and that a developer is planning to destroy the area and turn it into a landfill. When Wren teams up with Theo, a nerdy boy at school, to work on a public issue project, she finds the perfect partner in her effort to save Pete’s Pond. Wren begins to find herself, learn about community, forgive those who don’t deserve it, rediscover family, and decide her own direction.

Why I like this book:

Monika Schroder’s has written a sensitive and emotionally deep story about how Wren deals the tragic death of her father. Although the book is about loss, it is also about friendship, courage and embracing life. It has a quirkiness about it that is refreshing. I especially like Schroder’s expertly written prologue and first chapter, which draw the reader into the story from the get-go. The narrative is expertly written in Wren’s voice.

Readers will be captivated by Wren’s unconventional character. She is a strong spirit who loves bird-watching, deals with both her father’s death and a comatose mother, outsmarts bullies, and takes on a major environmental issue. Wren’s mother works two jobs, refuses to talk about her father, and emotionally abandons her daughter. Their complex relationship begins to unravel as secrets and betrayals are revealed. Theo, who is considered the class nerd, proves to be a very resourceful partner. He understands the pain of losing a parent and is a good friend. Together they grow and become a powerful voice in the community. Randle, a Chippewa Indian who owns a junkyard for cars, adds a special twist to the story.

This beautifully crafted story is multi-layered and filled with vivid imagery. Schroder uses roadkill as a symbolic image to show how both Wren and Theo deal with their sadness in losing a parent. I have never seen anything like it before and it works well in this story. Wren buries dead animals. Theo takes pictures of roadkill. Both are looking for a way to come to terms with their heartache and find closure. The plot is distinctly realistic and fast-paced. The ending is unexpected and satisfying.

This is an excellent classroom discussion book as there are many substantive topics that can be discussed: grief, bullying, peer pressure, protecting the environment, and ancient Native American burial grounds.

Monika Schroder grew up in Germany, but has lived and worked in American international schools in Egypt, Oman, Chile, and India. She moved to the US in 2011. She is the author of My Brother’s Shadow, Saraswati’s Way (my review), and a The Dog in the Wood. You can find out more about Schroder on her website.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

14 thoughts on “Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schroder

  1. Love the title and the story has a great plot. I’ll add this one to my growing list of books to read. This is also the third book in 2016 where the MC is a birdwatcher. SOAR and THE DRAKE EQUATION are two others. Maybe it will spark an interest for kids and birding. Thanks for your thorough review.


    • The title came from a quote that Wren’s father had written in her bird journal. It means you don’t want to float around in life like a feather. You want to be soar like a bird and determine your own direction. Which is a significant theme in the story. I meant to use that in my review. Birding is something she did with her father and after he died, Wren didn’t know if she could continue. Yes, it is interesting that birdwatching is appearing in MG novels. I read your review and there were many similarities to your review of SOAR.


  2. This sounds like a book full of discovery and meaning. It is so hard for children when one parent dies as in reality they often lose both parents. This would be worth a read for all ages.


    • Yes, it is a book of discovery and the main character finding her path in life. Yes, I agree. It is hard for kids when one parent dies and they lose the other to severe depression. You can tell Wren’s mother is running away from something, but you don’t understand until the end. Great ending.


  3. Ooooh your review makes me want to read this, Pat. It covers so many topics and all very realistic. Will see if our library can get this one in. Thanks so much for sharing. Hoping you are having a great week.


    • Monika,
      It was a pleasure to review BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD. You weave so many themes together and create a compelling and beautiful story. I hope Wren and Theo’s story finds its way to many readers.


  4. I tend to stay away from books that deal with a lot of grief, but this one sounds really good. I like how she finds an outlet and a purpose in saving the pond. And I do love character-driven, lyrical books. Thanks for featuring this!


    • It is an unusual story — haven’t read anything like it! Yes, it is character-driven, fast-paced and a good read. I love that the MC is into bird watching as it may encourage kids to think about the hobby.


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