Review Blog

Dec 09 2009

Little Bird by Camilla Way

cover image

Harper Collins, London 2009. ISBN 978000 7242375
(Ages 16+) Highly recommended. 'It took one second to snatch the child' was the dramatic opening line of this novel set jointly in London and France and New York. Three year old Elodie Brun was taken from her pram outside a boulangerie in France in 1985. The baker heard the horrifying scream of Therese, her mother, and knew that 'in the same brief moment Therese and all she was and might yet still have been was taken too.'
Elodie was stolen and hidden away in the Foret de Breteuil by a mute man. She soon forgot the few words she knew and her old way of life. Instead she learnt how to mimic birdsongs and to fish and gather edible food from the forest.
Ten years later, as Elodie is entering adolescence, her kidnapper commits suicide and she runs out of the forest and into civilization. Because she only communicates through grunts and bird whistles she is nicknamed 'Little Bird.' She isn't returned to her mother but taken under the wing of Dr Ingrid Klein, an expert in psycholinguistics. Amazingly she learns to speak but again finds herself hidden away from society, this time as the doctor's 'laboratory specimen.'
At age fifteen Elodie pushes Ingrid away in the kitchen causing her bad injuries from which she ultimately dies. Elodie flees once again, manages to change her identity and survive in Queens and even settle down in the workforce.However Elodie is always looking over her shoulder fearing that she will be recognized and exposed. Eventually the anonymous phone calls come whispering her former name. Whom can she trust?
This is a multi-faceted book with many subtle side themes examining relationships, prostitution, and drug taking as well as how we learn to speak. Useful adjuncts include a Q and A section with the author and ten other books set in London. Intriguing from beginning to end Little Child is highly recommended for secondary students and would make an excellent senior study novel.
Kay Haarsma

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