Nightbird by Alice Hoffman is magical realism for middle graders at its finest. Twig and her mother have moved from Brooklyn to small house her mother grew up in the small town of Sidwell, home of the notorious Sidwell Monster. Twig’s mom insists on keeping to themselves because they have been hiding a secret from the world for years–Twig’s older brother, James, who has wings, like all the cursed men in the family before him. And then a family moves into the house next door, and Twig can’t help but break the rules, make a friend, and investigate not only the family curse, but some mysterious graffiti that has appeared all over town. There’s also a light romance, as James begins sneaking out at night to meet up with Agate, the older girl next door.
I became absolutely enveloped in Hoffman’s warm, compelling tale, and even though I was able to predict some of the story’s events and elements, I enjoyed Hoffman’s wonderful words taking me there. Not all middle schoolers will make those same predictions, but those who do will be pleased that they did.
Here’s a video clip of Alice Hoffman speaking about children’s books, her own reading as a child, and a little bit about what inspired Nightbird.