Twelve year old Bridget MacKerrie dreams of spreading her wings. She loves living on the remote Scottish Island of Tornish but when her days are full of endless chores and the same faces, whether they belong to family, neighbours or chickens, a life beyond the seas calls. Bridie loves nothing more then climbing the Glass Crags barefoot, where she can feel closest to the sky. She lives up to her nickname ‘Little Bird’, not allowing her physical disabilities to hold her back but aiming high and with thoughts of reaching for more in life. Her best friend Will Beaton can just about keep up with her energy and spirit but occasionally gets his own back with his incessant teasing.
Since Queen Victoria herself sang the praises of the north of Scotland, life has begun to change for the MacKerrie family. They are happy to serve the Laird of Tornish, as tenants on his land. They cannot help but respect a man who treats them with such kindness. Unfortunately, all this soon changes with the arrival of the Laird’s rich relations from the mainland. Quickly, life takes a terrible turn and living on the Isle of Tornish becomes impossibly difficult for Bridie, her family and friends. They each have to face the terrible decision of whether they stay on the Island they love or escape and make a fresh start.
The story of ‘Little Bird’ is set in the 1860s and focuses on two apposing landscapes: the Island of Tornish and the city of Glasgow. The story is divided in two as Bridie experiences a different set of challenges in each location. Author Karen McCombie grew up in Scotland and worked hard to bring a sense of authenticity to the rural and non rural scenery she depicts for her characters. This is a well constructed Victorian drama which addresses general themes of friendship, inequality, emigration and disability. Whilst the story features a female protagonist, there are a myriad of characters to identify with enjoy reading about. Set in a time when disabilities were feared and pitied, Bridie’s character, which is full of gumption, really stands out. Karen McCombie has created a heroine to truly admire.
For fans of the book, a sequel will be released soon entitled, ‘Little Bird Lands’ which charts Bridie’s experiences as an immigrant in America.
Little Bird Flies would be a fantastic text to share with an upper KS2 class. The publishers Nosy Crow have even created a teaching sequence to be used to share the book, which can be found here.
Little Bird Flies Karen McCombie
Nosy Crow ISBN: 978-0857639103