March 2014, Frances Lincoln, 32 pages, Paperback, Review copy
Themes: magic, birds, exploitation, escape, true happiness
Summary from Frances Lincoln
Ahmed is a poor orphan boy who lives with a travelling circus, working for cruel Madame Saleem, the circus-owner. But his life is changed when he finds a beautiful egg in the forest, and brings it back to the circus. From the egg hatches a child, a little girl called Aurelia, a child who, as she grows, sprouts soft feathers that turn into wings. But Madame Saleem keeps Aurelia in a cage, to be her top attraction at the circus, and never lets her out. Ahmed knows he must free Aurelia the Feather Girl from her cruel cage or she will die. One night he creeps into Madame Saleem's caravan, takes the key to Aurelia's cage and lets her fly free. Now Ahmed's life becomes even harder, as the circus-owner takes revenge for losing her star attraction. But one night Aurelia comes to him in a dream and brings him a feather... and Ahmed begins to hope again.
I was more intrigued by the birds with their stunning colours than by Ahmed...and the Feather Girl caught my interest. I hadn't expected her to hatch from the egg, and felt so sorry for the way she was treated-and Ahmed too as he suffered after the girl was gone. The end is rather special, and is perfect.
There is so much to look at in the illustrations, things like a performer balancing a chair on her nose, birds and feathers on every page. I kept wanting to know more about things which weren't talked about, like how long did the people dressed as a horse have to drag the caravan for? The dogs looked a bit fierce for my liking, and the story understandably got rather grim which is why it didn't get a perfect grade. But the magic and huge variety of colours and patterns on every page are why it's a must read.
Find out more (both of the birds and other books) on Jane's website.
Another mystical tale is Winters Child by Angela McAllister and Grahame Baker-Smith (Children's, Picture book, 10E/10E)