86. My Dad's a Birdman by David Almond

My Dad's a Birdman by David Almond. Illustrated by Polly Dunbar. (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 121
Ages: 8+
Finished: Apr. 4, 2011
First Published: 2007 UK (2008, US) Mar. 22, 2011 US PB
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, magical realism, grief, humour
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

An ordinary spring morning in 12 Lark Lane.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: I am quite fond of David Almond as an author. He reminds me of Roald Dahl with his mixture of humour and darkness but he isn't so obvious as Dahl.

This certainly is a quite a beautiful story. Using metaphors and imagery of flight and birds to help a father and daughter overcome the grief from the death of the mother makes for a touching story. On the surface we have a silly, whimsical, humorous story of a dad who is turning into a bird so he can win the Great Human Bird Competition, right down to living on bugs and worms and building a huge nest in the middle of the kitchen floor. Underneath the story is about a man who literally looses his mind when his wife dies and becomes obsessed with birds while the daughter takes on the parental role of looking after him, to see him through this rough patch.

The story is hilarious with the antics of dad; then enter Auntie Doreen and her baking dumplings as a cure for everything that ails one and throwing them when it doesn't work. There is a riot of colour and silliness when the Great Human Bird Competition begins and we see and watch all the other contestants as they try to fly over the river to win money in all sorts of contraptions and get ups. But there is a small darkness beneath everything that gradually lightens throughout the story. The mom's death is only barely even referred to; the words death and die are never used. Underlying the dad's silly behaviour is his grief, to the astute reader, and underneath the daughter's looking after her dad is the need to know he is still there for her. They both need to know that though mom is gone they still have each other. Through the use of birds, flight, metaphors and other references to going up they let their grief go and one can even feel a religiousness in the upward/skyward theme if one's thoughts turn that way. A touching, yet hilarious story.


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