Thursday, January 22, 2015
Beyond the Laughing Sky, by Michelle Cuevas
We learn early on that Nashville wasn't exactly born to his parents. He was hatched from the egg of a Nashville warbler that spilled from a nest outside his parents' window, and from the start he looked like a boy with a beak and feathers on his head in place of hair. Despite a sweet, supportive home with his parents and his younger sister, who came long in the usual way, Nashville wants most of all to have wings. He knows he belongs in the sky, he wants to fly, and the plot has to do with how he finds the way.
There are a lot of heartwarming moments. For example, though Nashville is teased at school sometimes, and tries to blend in (in one scene, he goes to the barber and has his feathers buzzed off), he also receives some touching acceptance and the beginnings of friendship from the boy he's afraid will be his nemesis. And there are humorous moments. Nashville volunteers at the local pet shop, and when he hatches a scheme to let the birds sample flying by tying them all to strings and holding them like a bunch of balloons, he causes a public sensation and is told by the store owner, "Nashville, you are absolutely, irrefutably, indubitably FIRED." There are more lovely lines, and here's a favorite: "At some point during the night, summer had left town, had packed a suitcase full of fireflies and swimming holes, and whistled on down the road."
The omniscient point of view is just right for this fantasy with a classic feel, and may remind more than one reader of Kate DiCamillo. While the message of being who you were born to be is a bit obvious, and I thought the POV faltered in a spot or two, overall this is a winner. Definitely recommended.