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Bird Boy is a very special book. I would go as far to say that this is one of the best books Nosy Crow has published, ever. Catherine Bruton has written a new children's classic; a deeply felt and compassionate story of grief and connection, home and migration. It's a story that is wild and raw, intimate and wondrous. Catherine Bruton's writing is immensely powerful, a joy to read: a hug of a book that equally gets under your skin, tugging at your heart strings. Characters feel real - they must be real! Emotions soar. This is not just a story, it's a living thing. And it made this reader sob at its ending. I could offer more superlatives; instead, I just urge you to read this. Bird Boy is one of the finest children's books to come out in recent years - perhaps one of the best post-pandemic stories too.

After the tragic death of his mother, eleven year old Will is sent to temporarily stay with his uncle in the mountains. After years trapped in a high-rise flat, with only birds for company, Will doesn't know how he'll survive a place like this, but he soon finds solace in the woods, when he's surrounded by birdsong. With his new friend Omar - a refugee from Afghanistan - Will discovers an osprey nest, with two small chicks inside. He forms an unbreakable bond with the birds, especially the smallest chick, who they name Whitetip. But when tragedy almost strikes again one stormy night, and Whitetip is knocked out of the nest - breaking a wing, Will is determined to save her. Smuggling her down from the mountain, he finds a way to keep her alive...

There are so many reasons why Bird Boy soars. For a start, Catherine Bruton really brings characters to life. From Will to Omar to dear Uncle Ian to the lovable neighbours, everyone feels fully-fleshed out through emotionally-astute characterisation and authentic dialogue. Her depictions of mental health and grief are deeply and sensitively conveyed. I really felt for Will (and Omar and Uncle Ian); this is a book full of empathy and understanding. It's also a book that explores what it means to find a home, a family - that we all can lose someone, may need to migrate but find our new nests and valleys and connections. This is a story about how we learn to fly, but how we find our feet on the ground too. It also beautifully depicts nature: the landscape, the osprey and other wildlife too. 

In her Afterword, Catherine Bruton writes about how stories, particularly animal or nature stories, are so important to help us heal our traumas. At my school we have led a national Storytime project - putting reading stories to children back at the heart of the curriculum. Catherine's words have made me think about trialling a whole school Storytime with animal stories as the focus - with Bird Boy read to children in Year 5 or 6. 

Bird Boy needs to win all the awards. Bravo to the author and all who worked to bring this story into the world. Thank you to Nosy Crow for sending me a proof copy to review.

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