Book Review: Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

Posted March 18, 2015 by Melissa in Book Review | 8 Comments

 

The Book

Title:  Nightbird
Author:  Alice Hoffman
Target Audience: Middle Grade
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 208 pages
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books | Random House
Publication Date: March 10th 2015
Available Formats: Hardcover, E-book, Audio
Add the book: Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon | BN |The Book Depository
Source: Publisher

Synopsis:

An enchanting novel from bestselling author Alice Hoffman: a charmed New England village, a family secret, and a friendship destined to defeat a witch.

“Some things could only be found in Sidwell it seemed: pink apples, black owls, and my brother, James.”

Twelve-year-old Twig’s town in the Berkshires is said to hide a winged beast, the Monster of Sidwell, and the rumors draw as many tourists as the town’s famed pink apple orchards. Twig lives in the orchard with her mysterious brother James and her reclusive mother, a baker of irresistible apple pies. Because of a family secret, an ancient curse,Twig has had to isolate herself from other kids. Then a family with two girls, Julia and Agate, moves into the cottage next door. They are descendants of the witch who put the spell on Twig’s family. But Julia turns out to be Twig’s first true friend, and her ally in trying to undo the curse and smooth the path to true love for Agate and James.

Book Quote

James had a theory about caged birds…he believed that all birds that had their freedom taken from them eventually lost their voices. Once that happened,they could never again find their true song.

My Thoughts

Middle Grade reads can be hit or miss for me, but having read and loved a couple of other books by Alice Hoffman I had confidence that she wouldn’t let me down. (One of these days I really will read more of her.)

I’ll lead with my sole criticism…the fact that it felt like Hoffman over simplified with this one due to her target audience. Middle Grade readers can handle a lot more depth than she gives them credit for with Nightbird…but with that said it was still an amazing piece of writing.

Hoffman knows how to evoke emotion and senses. I could feel Twig’s loneliness, hear the birdsong, smell her mother’s pink apple pie…. It was all so real in the most deliciously dreamy way.

As expected this read was simply charming and imbued with elegant magic. Predictably, I loved the small New England town and it’s cast of characters that we slowly learn about through Twig as she opens herself up to the townsfolk, friendship and possibilities all in one formative summer. I loved the story too…the love and friendships, the growth and faith, the hope and magic. This is one of those reads that leaves one feeling snuggled in a warm throw with a cup of tea on a chilly Autumn day.

I think Alice Hoffman herself sums it up best in this paragraph from her introduction:

“For my readers who are searching for the same things I searched for, Nightbird is a book of hope, for the lonely, the friendless, the girl who is different, the boy who has secrets to keep. In it, magic can be found in unexpected places, right next door or scrawled on a piece of paper hidden in an old desk. It takes place in a summer when everything changes, when the moon is red, when friendships are forged, and when love can be found at your own front door.” ~Alice Hoffman

Was It Worth My Time?

4.5 Timepieces

About Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York.

Hoffman’s first novel, PROPERTY OF, was written at the age of twenty-one, while she was studying at Stanford, and published shortly thereafter by Farrar Straus and Giroux. She credits her mentor, professor and writer Albert J. Guerard, and his wife, the writer Maclin Bocock Guerard, for helping her to publish her first short story in the magazine Fiction. Editor Ted Solotaroff then contacted her to ask if she had a novel, at which point she quickly began to write what was to become PROPERTY OF, a section of which was published in Mr. Solotaroff’s magazine, American Review.

Since that remarkable beginning, Alice Hoffman has become one of our most distinguished novelists. She has published over thirty novels, including two books of short fiction, and eight books for children and young adults. Her novel, HERE ON EARTH, an Oprah Book Club choice, was a modern reworking of some of the themes of Emily Bronte’s masterpiece Wuthering Heights. PRACTICAL MAGIC was made into a Warner film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Her novel, AT RISK, which concerns a family dealing with AIDS, can be found on the reading lists of many universities, colleges and secondary schools. Hoffman’s advance from LOCAL GIRLS, a collection of inter-related fictions about love and loss on Long Island, was donated to help create the Hoffman Breast Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA. BLACKBIRD HOUSE is a book of stories centering around an old farm on Cape Cod. Hoffman’s other books include AQUARMARINE and INDIGO, novels for pre-teens, and The New York Times bestsellers THE RIVER KING, BLUE DIARY, THE PROBABLE FUTURE, and THE ICE QUEEN. GREEN ANGEL, a post-apocalyptic fairy tale about loss and love, was published by Scholastic and THE FORETELLING, a book about an Amazon girl in the Bronze Age, was published by Little Brown. Little Brown also published the teen novel INCANTATION, a story about hidden Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, which Publishers Weekly has chosen as one of the best books of the year. In January 2007, SKYLIGHT CONFESSIONS, a novel about one family’s secret history, was released on the 30th anniversary of the publication of Hoffman’s first novel.

Her most recent works include NIGHTBIRD, THE MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY THINGS, THE DOVEKEEPERS, and THE MARRIAGE OF OPPOSITES.

Her next novel, FAITHFUL, will be released November 1, 2016.

Hoffman’s work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People Magazine. She has also worked as a screenwriter and is the author of the original screenplay “Independence Day,” a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Weist. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, Redbook, Architectural Digest, Gourmet, Self, and other magazines. Her teen novel AQUAMARINE was recently made into a film starring Emma Roberts.

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8 responses to “Book Review: Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

    • Melissa

      Magical realism is my favorite genre and Hoffman does it so well:) Definitely a great book for young readers!

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