, , , ,

It is a great relief to be able to plug someone else’s book instead of the flagrant self-promotion that usually occurs here. The most recent release of author Brian Kindall deserves the spotlight.

Surely no one can experience extraordinary adventures without being transformed! Kindall is a master at creating characters, from petty thieves and tormented fornicators in his adult books to the wide-eyed wonder of children in his middle-grade books, he develops his characters in layers of thoughtful dialogue and fantastical vocabulary. A joyful sense of wonder permeates all his work, a holdover from the wonder and magic of childhood that many of us lose as we navigate the serious business of adult life. While this book is suggested for children ages 8 – 12, I found it pleasant reading from an adult perspective and could easily imagine a series of bedtime reads for parents of children younger the eight. Reading this book with your child will surely transform you both.

Tim, aka Sparrow, must discover what wrongs his family has perpetrated upon the family name of Wellbeck. What is the family’s momentous muddle all about? Along with the residents of his village of Candela, Tim strives to puzzle out the mystery and the magic of a momentous and unprecedented snowstorm that threatens their existence. What has this snowstorm got to do with the demise of the Ocular Sparrow? With Tim? With wishing upon a star?

The orphaned son of a pair of ornithologists, Tim lives with, and is supposedly chaperoned by, his self-absorbed and unapproachable Uncle Morris. Morris the Morose lives within the self-imposed bars of a cage, much like a captive bird. One wonders who is caring for whom in this troubled relationship. The boy’s sorrow and loneliness leak out in song, which attracts sparrows to his bleak room at the tippy-top of Wellbeck Tower offering brief moments of joy.

Woven into the magic and mystery of the tale are important themes for children and adults alike to ponder. Among them are sin, shame, sorrow, betrayal, the power of faith and of hope, and of shared values; the power of a misplaced wish— “A wish upon a star can only be undone by another wish upon another star. Everyone knows that.” But I didn’t. Did you? Also what are the consequences of human greed and fashion fads to the natural world?  Perhaps you’ve observed the intoxicating hope of luring new industry and wealth to a community that has fallen on hard times? Sometimes that works. Sometimes not. Have you ever considered that “Nature occasionally suffers a case of the hiccups, and two remarkable pieces of the world come together to make something new and even more remarkable”? How many mysteries of life and the natural world are a result of a simple hiccup?

One last consideration: Be careful what you wish for. Sparrow starts with Tim wishing upon a falling star for snow, which really wasn’t what was in his heart. What he was not impractical or brave enough to wish for was his mother.

And, no mystery involving a little boy as protagonist is complete without a secret door.