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The best thing about STONEBIRD by Mike Revell is that its size --- a thin book of only 200-something pages --- is not indicative at all of its heart and story. 

Set in England, in a town called Swanbury, STONEBIRD is middle-grade magical realism at its best. It's got a stark and real life-narrative, punctuated by the gritty reality of illness and pain that becomes more and more apparent to young kids as they grow up. But it also has the wonder of childhood, reminiscent of nostalgia and imagination. The combination of the two is hopeful rather than bleak and depressing. It’s as if the book is saying that sometimes, the world that seems so logical can be a little less so. And for Liam, the main character at the heart of STONEBIRD, that makes all the difference. 

You see, Liam's grandmother has been taken over by a demon --- or dementia, as the doctors are calling it --- and it looks like she's only getting worse. That's why his mother moved him and his sister across the country to be closer to her. The dementia is quickly taking everything away from Liam --- his mother spends more time with a wine bottle than her kids, his sister is never home and Liam can't settle in at school because of a bully named Matt. When Liam finds his grandmother's diary and discovers a penchant for telling stories involving the anthropomorphic gargoyle named Stonebird in his backyard, things get a little better, especially when strange things happen in accordance with his tales. As his stories about Stonebird get more elaborate, so does his hope for the future.

The deep layers that Revell writes into the book really make it shine; it is so much more than it seems at first glance.

I love that STONEBIRD doesn’t shy away from discussing tough issues as well as memories --- who will tell your story when you are incapable of doing it yourself? Everything was woven together so seamlessly. Readers are treated to history as well, as Revell takes us back to WWII with Liam's grandma's diary. This new voice helped break up the slow parts of the book. I also really enjoyed the various antagonists and conflicts that the magic of Stonebird helped fix --- tangible things like Matt and his bullying friends and an unkempt lawn and things unseen, like his grandmother's dementia and mom's drinking problem.

But where the story falls short is that Liam is almost a little too self-aware at times for a seven-year-old boy. Also, especially at the beginning, the story crawls along, a bit. However, this book overall was such a delight that I was okay with that. 

All in all, I think STONEBIRD is a treat that needs to be shared. The deep layers that Revell writes into the book really make it shine; it is so much more than it seems at first glance. I hope many young and more experienced readers are able to meet Liam and read his story.  It's a great one.

Reviewed by Brianna Robinson on October 20, 2015

by Mike Revell

  • Publication Date: June 2, 2015
  • Genres: Children's, Fiction
  • Hardcover: pages
  • Publisher:
  • ISBN-10: 1623654629
  • ISBN-13: 9781623654627