I don’t often do book reviews, usually because I’m so far behind the trends. By the time I post a review, I’m guessing everyone else is thinking, “Yeah, read that one three years ago. What’s she been doing, living under a rock?” I leave the book reviews for the quicker readers. But this is an exception. Nightbird, by Alice Hoffman (author of Practical Magic, among many others) was released last year.
Nightbird is juvenile fiction, appropriate for ages 10 and up. It covers the story of the Fowler family, in particular Teresa Fowler (aka Twig) who attends sixth grade in Sidwell, Massachusetts. Twig loves living in Sidwell, next to the apple orchards her family has owned for forever. But dark secrets plague Twig and Sidwell, too. The witch that used to live in Sidwell many years ago cursed Twig’s family. And the descendants of that witch just moved in next door. Her mother forbids her to spend any time with them, but Twig is intrigued by this friendly family. Before she knows it, their daughter Julia becomes her first best friend.
The townspeople have always believed a monster haunts the town, but when things start to go missing, people become concerned. The mutterings about hunting and killing the monster develop into concrete plans. Twig’s terrified when she hears of the plans, because she knows something the townspeople don’t. The monster may be closer than they think.
As Twig, and her new best friend Julia, attempt to understand and fix the curse, they get some help from friendly townspeople and long lost papers. As usual in a Hoffman novel, magic is found everywhere, from the special Pink apples grown in the Fowler’s orchard to the exotic fragrant teas offered by the town librarian.
Although there was an opportunity for the author to explore the topic of bullying, she instead focused on how the unveiling of this secret changed Twig and her family. (Best of all, nobody died. That’s important to me. If a character dies, there better be a darn good reason for it.)
So if we’re giving stars, I’d give Nightbird 4.5 out of 5. If you love clean speculative fiction with family secrets and magic, I’d encourage you to pick it up.