Little Bird Flies


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Our Moving On Category looks for stunning books for children in Y6/7 who are ready for a more challenging read, but who are not yet ready for older teen or YA reads. Here are the first six we have chosen this year…


Living in Kairos City, Shifa and her brother, Themba survive in a devastated world. ‘Freedom Fields’ is in charge of feeding everyone- as long as you opt into the system. The bees have all gone and children are sent to farms where they have to act as pollinators. Although together, Themba and Shifa are dismayed by the cruelty and intolerance of the farm regime and Shifa knows they need to escape.

A powerful novel with caring for nature - and people- at its heart, ‘Where the River Runs Gold’ is a compelling story. Taught to love nature by her father, Shifa is a wonderful character, showing love and compassion which has been nurtured in her like the flowers in the secret garden. Themba is beautifully drawn; the way he sees the world, the way he responds to things around him, is sensitively portrayed and the sibling relationship is a joy.

The story shows how change can start with the individual and how important each tiny step can be. Perfect for those who love adventure and strong characters, ‘Where the River Runs Gold’ is a thought-provoking, challenging read.

Where the River Runs Gold Sita Brahmachari

Orion ISBN: 978-1510105416


Second youngest of four children, Bridget Mackerrie has a withered arm and a deformed foot, but nothing holds her back. Desperate to leave the island, she longs to fly away- like a little bird. When the just Laird of the island dies and his successor proves to be a harsh, cruel landlord, the time for escape has come.

Perfect for those who love historical fiction, ‘Little Bird Flies’ is full of detail and atmosphere. Obviously well researched, it brings the ways of the crofters and the contrast with the landlord vividly to life, effortlessly engaging the reader with the historical events behind the story. Little Bird is bursting with character- a wonderful protagonist for a wonderful story.

A rich evocative story, ‘Little Bird Flies’ is a joy to read.

Little Bird Flies- Karen McCombie

Nosy Crow ISBN: 978-0857639103

You can read another review of this here.


Whilst scavenging on the beach, Bonnie finds a battered boat- and a boy in need of help. Bonnie and her increasingly weak Granda are already in trouble with the authorities for flouting the rules, but the boy is in need of help. Bonnie does her best to keep him hidden from the border guards, but as the net tightens, the time has come to escape in search of a new beginning.

This is a story full of love and hope in a bleak world. Bonnie is bright and curious, desperate to solve the mystery of her mother who left when she was a baby, but whose devotion and loyalty to her Granda are heartwarming. The story is beautifully written, with vivid descriptions of the outdoors in all its natural glory. Bonnie and Granda are completely in touch with their environment, living in harmony with nature and cherishing its resources.

There is also much food for thought in this book, exploring as it does living with closed borders, being controlled by a stifling regime, denying shelter and compassion to others. The importance of freedom to thrive and the need to escape challenge the reader to consider what is really important.

The House of Light Julia Green

OUP ISBN: 978-0192771568


Found under a newspaper on a bench at the zoo by George Arthur Lucas who picked him up, put him in a Stetson and quietly took him home, Elvis Crampton Lucas was named after the first three albums George picked out. Now twelve, Elvis is now determined to find his natural parents. So, using the language the newspaper was written in as a clue, he sets off on an incredible adventure to Norway with his dad and their friend, Lloyd to solve the mystery…

With its distinctive written style and wonderful characters, ‘The Boy Who Hit Play’ is a wonderfully pacey adventure with much to recommend it. It challenges the reader to think about what makes us who we are and the importance of unconditional love. The characters are wonderfully appealing, each changed by the experiences of their trip. This is a quirky, appealing read with a unique voice- brilliant!

The Boy Who Hit Play Chloe Daykin

Faber and Faber ISBN: 978-0571326785


Maggie Cruise is a middler. Her brother, Jed, is an eldest - special because he is the family’s first born. Her younger brother, Trig, is the little one, everyone’s favourite. Being a middler means she is overlooked and ignored, but Maggie yearns for recognition and success. Fennis Wick, where they live, is protected from the outside world by a thick hedge. Dirty, dangerous, deceitful wanderers roam the land, threatening their lives. But when Maggie meets Una Opal, a hungry wanderer who needs her help, everything Maggie has been led to believe is turned upside down.

Maggie is a wonderful figure, loving and loyal, but flawed, making an engaging main character. Her sense of frustration and injustice at being the invisible middle one is brilliantly developed. The world she lives in has been expertly crafted and filled with believable characters. Sent to fight in the Quiet War, sacrificing their lives at home for the good of their families, Eldests may seem to have the best of everything and live a charmed life, yet Jed and Lindi, another Eldest, are well rounded characters, shown to have worries about their future as well. Trig is lovely- full of life and skilled in his own way.

Gripping from start to finish, this is a one-sitting sort of book which completely captivates you. Although there are dark moments full of menace, the story is ultimately uplifting and full of hope and love. Highly recommended, this is a fabulous read.

The Middler - Kirsty Applebaum

Nosy Crow ISBN:


Growing up in a poor household in Lyme Regis, young Mary wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and gather fossils in spite of the dangers. After her father’s death, Mary continues her work, sure she is gong to find something unique and determined to gain the recognition she deserves for her work.

‘Lightning Mary’ tells the story of Mary Anning, the Victorian paleontologist whose discoveries were so significant. Life for Mary was far from easy- her poverty and the challenges faced by women at this time are made very clear by Anthea Simmons as Mary’s eventual success in the face of adversity is adeptly told. Her courage and tenacity as she sought her treasures, her fascination with these objects from the past and her blunt nature are all brought to life in this novel. The story is rich in history and detail and makes a compelling read- perfect for those looking for a challenge.

Lightning Mary- Anthea Simmons

Andersen Press ISBN: 978-1783448296

Little Bird Flies


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