Friday 21 October 2016
Sleeping with the Blackbirds by Alex Pearl
Ray Nuttersley is used to listening to his parents arguing at home and being bullied by Harry Hodges at school. To help him forget he takes up the binoculars his granny gave him and watches the birds in the garden, where he's put up very popular birdfeeders that he made himself:
"It was little wonder then, that Ray's brightly painted bird boxes and feeders were beginning to attract the attention of all manner of birds.
The blackbirds sung Ray's praises to the sparrows, and the sparrows spread the word to the smaller birds. Before long the excited chatter was to spread from treetop to treetop."
Later the blackbirds send out a call to all the other birds to help Ray overcome his unhappiness. The blue tits become the main spies as they are small and can hide well in trees as they watch over things, while the Canada Geese are eventually persuaded to take a lead role in punishing the bullies.
Things become worse for Ray at home before they become better as his parents become embroiled in an entertainingly farcical situation. (I particularly liked the detail of his mother buying lots of cheap crockery so she could throw it at her husband).
I felt the main characters (human and avian) were drawn really well, with enough detail to make them three dimensional and interesting and with room for all of them to develop during the course of the story. The story deals with issues including family relationships, bullying and homelessness with a light touch and lots of humour.
This is a delightful and entertaining urban fantasy of how the birds all co-operate to help their friend Ray and to protect the food sources they find in his garden. It's a tale of how a young person can find his place in nature and learn to find his place in the everyday human world too. It's billed as a YA book, but with the 11 year old protagonist it often feels like a book for younger teenagers, on the other hand it's very entertaining for adults too! (And the ending is wonderful.)
Sleeping with the Blackbirds by Alex Pearl.