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The Fairy Godmother Academy #1: Birdie's Book

Review

The Fairy Godmother Academy #1: Birdie's Book

For Birdie, the move from California to New York City has not been an exciting adventure. She misses her beloved “Califa” and is angry at her mom for taking the new job that brought them to the cold city. Thankfully, her father is as understanding as ever and sends her for a weekend trip to visit her grandmother. Granny Mo and Birdie have never spent any time together, but as soon as Birdie meets her, she knows they are very much alike. Unlike Birdie's straight-laced mother Emma, Mo is colorful and expressive, and has a way with plants that borders on the magical. And what Birdie comes to realize is that the magic is something that is passed down through the generations.

BIRDIE'S BOOK is Jan Bozarth's first installment in The Fairy Godmother Academy series. It follows Birdie as she begins to understand her family in a new way and comprehend what sets them apart from other families. In some ways, this is a coming-of-age story: Birdie needs to rely on her own strengths to complete certain tasks that bring her to the next stage in life. She must come to see her mother not as an antagonist but as an individual with feelings and a history. But while there are many real-life scenarios present in Bozarth's book, the work is also in the realm of fantasy. What Birdie learns is that her Granny Mo is a fairy godmother, and Birdie herself is a fairy godmother to be. While Bozarth doesn't fully articulate what a fairy godmother is or what she does, it is clear they have powers to help those in this earthly realm. Birdie's family, for example, is part of the Arbor Lineage that has talents to grow and heal the green life of earth.

In order to begin her training as a fairy godmother (a privilege her mother disregarded at age 14), Birdie must first travel to the mystical land of Aventurine to heal a sacred tree and fix a family heirloom known as the Singing Stone. On her journey, she has help from another fairy godmother to be, Kerka, who is set to be the heroine of the next book in the series. Birdie and Kerka face underwater creatures, dangerous plants, a real banshee and their own personal fears as they work together to find the other half of the Singing Stone and heal the dying tree.

BIRDIE'S BOOK is told from Birdie's point of view and greatly captures a 12-year-old’s uncertainties, hopes, confusion, dreams and inherent confidence. Birdie is a gentle and likable girl, and readers will cheer for her on her adventure. But while the book is quite enjoyable, it is not without its problems. Adults reading BIRDIE'S BOOK may be distracted by some aspects (the contrary dates of the generations of women in the family, for example). Also, the highly stylized and fanciful black and white illustrations throughout add to the tone of the book, but may distract some readers from the text as well. For those reasons, this is not a totally cohesive book, but young girls will most likely be able to overlook that as they follow Birdie and Kerka into Aventurine.

Overall, this is a solid start to a series that is built on an interesting premise. Bozarth has taken the best aspects of various young adult genres and mixed them together in a fresh and optimistic way. Dealing with parental conflict, family secrets, changes and challenges, BIRDIE'S BOOK often hits just the right note.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on August 25, 2009

The Fairy Godmother Academy #1: Birdie's Book
by Jan Bozarth

  • Publication Date: August 25, 2009
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 037585181X
  • ISBN-13: 9780375851810