Murray’s Latest Takes Flight: How to Make a Bird

Red evening dress + bicycle = cool protagonist

Yet another solid Australian offering! Martine Murray’s latest novel How to Make a Bird is a quiet, thoughtful book about a girl coming to terms with grief and abandonment. Along the way she discovers love and ultimately redemption; typical situation, with atypical writing.

Mannie’s mother is exotic, beautiful, and exciting. She’s also volatile, hurtful, and unbalanced. For Mannie, life with her unpredictable mother is manageable as long as her brother Eddie is around, but what happens when he’s gone?

Murray’s book is poetic and full of memorable images: a girl in a red evening dress; wings made of wood hanging on a line; a boy picking apples; a faded old wedding photo. It feels as though Murray has collected a series of metaphorical images and then found the story that links them together. There isn’t alot of plot in this novel, but those who love language probably won’t notice.

The love story in this novel is compelling and full of heat. Harry Jacob, Mannie’s love interest, is the strong, silent type. He appreciates the simple, honest pleasures in life, such as playing the guitar and apple picking. When she is feeling particularly dismissive, Mannie tells him that they operate at different speeds- she’s fast and he’s slow. But as Mannie comes to realize, Harry is an uncommon man, one who shouldn’t be so easily dismissed.

Mannie’s voice is sophisticated and introspective. She is an easy character to love. Her particular brand of angst is raw but beautifully rendered in fresh, surprising language. Fans of Beth Kephart will enjoy Murray’s imagistic writing style. This is a book for a thoughtful teen, one who loves words and imagery. 

How to Make a Bird will be available in Canada in June 2010 from Scholastic.

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