Little Bird Lands
‘Fifteen years ago, my mother looked down upon me – cradled and broken in her arms – and made a wish. She wished that I might live, since it seemed likely that I would not.’ So begins Karen McCombie’s sequel to the superbly written Little Bird Flies. (If you’ve not read it you might want to start there.)
The brave, determined Bridie aka Little Bird, and her father and brother Lachlan have now been in the US for two years and are in a snowy copper mining settlement in Michigan. Here they face plenty of challenges: a fever lays Bridie low but happily there’s a woman doctor temporarily lodging with them at Hawk’s Point; the mine in which Lachlan has found work is said to have a Chippewa curse on it, and a ghost of a Chippewa maiden supposedly haunts the entire town.
When Dr Spicer suggests to Bridie that she gets involved in the setting up of a school for the local children and the newcomers, the girl’s initial reluctance at the idea of teaching quickly gives way to excitement and resolve.
The issues of taking land from the Native American peoples, of reservations and of the incomers’ selfishness rear their ugly heads. So too does that of who has the right to the education the doctor and Bridie are offering; as well as the question of whether or not ‘servant’ Easter – as she’s deemed by ‘cocky’ boy, Charlie – and Bridie can become true friends.
Then comes a disaster at the mine causing terrible injuries to many of the workers. Is this remote place ever to feel like home? Especially when Bridie discovers the secret that Easter has been keeping about her mistress for many months …
Later, when she finally understands what Lachlan has been trying to tell her about this ‘mistress’ and comes face to face with her, she realises that the young woman has the knowledge and the power to ruin her life and those of her father and brother all over again …
Totally engrossing throughout: McCombie’s carefully researched, compelling story chronicling Bridie’s experiences as an immigrant, is superbly woven and ultimately uplifting; all its characters really come to life; and there’s SO much to think about.
If you’re searching for a book to offer a confident upper KS2 reader, or want something of a historical nature to share with a class, this is a smasher.