Thursday, January 22, 2015

Beyond the Laughing Sky, by Michelle Cuevas

The first thing I noticed about this lovely middle-grade book was its trend. Along with Nest, by Esther Ehrlich, Nightingale's Nest by Nikki Loftin, Under the Egg, by Laura Marx Fitzgerald, and others (but the foregoing three are ones I've read), this is about a child who either has a striking affinity for birds, might actually be part bird, or more than likely is a bird. This novel does a wonderful job of letting you know right from the start that you can expect fantasy. The first line reads: "Nashville and his family lived in a house perched in the branches of the largest pecan tree in the village of Goosepimple."

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.

16 comments:

Vijaya said...

This looks good, Marcia! Thank you ever so much for spotlighting great books. I rely heavily on these for my own reading pleasure and my kiddos's.

Mirka Breen said...

Your reviews have become my gold-standard for what is good and literary in MG-land. Thank you for this one, also. It feels fable-like, which, when it works, is indeed rewarding to read.

Marcia said...

Vijaya -- I'm glad you enjoy the posts and hope you like this book.

Marcia said...

Mirka -- We cross-posted! I'm glad you, too, find them worthwhile. Yes, fable-like is very much the case.

Stephanie Faris said...

This sounds like a sweet story. And I love that the character is named Nashville! That's where I live!

Stephanie@Fairday's Blog said...

I haven't heard of this one before, but it does sound great! I always enjoy a good MG book. Thanks for sharing!
~Jess

Stephanie@Fairday's Blog said...

lol- just saw I wrote Jess at the end of my comment! I was jut thinking I had to call her and I guess I wrote her name. I realized as I was hitting send!
~Stephanie

Bish Denham said...

I need me a good fantasy right now.

Medeia Sharif said...

This looks like a great MG book. Yes, you're right about the bird-related books out there.

Andrea Mack said...

Ooh, I haven't heard of this one! I need to look for it. It sounds a little different.

cleemckenzie said...

Nashville. What a super name for a character. Thanks, Marcia!

Bish Denham said...

Your mission, Marcia, should you choose to accept it is to pick up an award on my blog. As always, should you be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.

Marcia said...

Stephanie -- I enjoyed the moment in the story when we found out the reason for the name.

Bish -- Glad the timing works! :)

Medeia -- Sometimes you have to wonder if there's something in the air.

Andrea -- Yes, exactly. A little different.

Lee -- They didn't even call him Nash. :)

Bish -- I'll be over. Maybe. :D

Marcia said...

Stephanie R -- Hope you enjoy the book. Thanks for stopping in! :)

LD Masterson said...

Reading this post made me wish I still had someone this age to buy it for. Sigh.

Marcia said...

LD -- It's fun when your kids and grandkids are the "golden age" for certain books, isn't it? Those ages pass fast!