Wild Bird

Roaring Brook. Mar. 2023. 320p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250833402.
Gr 6-8–Zahler’s novel offers a glimpse into the bubonic plague, the pandemic that rocked Europe in the 14th century. Owen rescues 12-year-old Rype who was hiding in a hollow tree trunk and realizes she must have been a survivor from a Norwegian village decimated by “the sickness,” as it is referred to in the book. Rype begins a new life and adventure with Owen, starting on the North Sea, carrying them through part of the Holy Roman Empire and to the Kingdom of France. The two join a merry band of troubadours traveling around singing for room and board who also provide companionship and protection. Rype knows she has no family to return to in Norway and seems happy to follow Owen home to England to rejoin his mother and sister. Along the way the group encounters perilous situations readers might find shocking but were, in fact, normal facets of living during the Middle Ages. Each chapter begins with a flashback to Rype’s life with her family in her Norwegian village running parallel to the narrative. Zahler’s research is obvious with her diction; there are words and phrases readers will need to use context clues to decipher. Rype and Owen’s affection for each other is an underlying current and could provide enough tension to keep a reluctant reader invested. Furthermore, personal connections with recent COVID-19 experiences might allow for interesting discussion in a group setting.
VERDICT A great addition to any middle grade historical fiction collection.

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