cover image Wild Bird

Wild Bird

Diane Zahler. Roaring Brook, $18.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-2508-3340-2

Zahler (Goblin Market) transports readers to 14th-century Europe during the height of the black plague in this searing novel for fans of gritty historical fare. When a girl is found cowering in a hollow tree in Norway, she has sparse clothing, no food, and no memories, including of her name. Coaxed out of her hiding spot by British shipmaster’s son Owen, and called Rype—or Wild Bird—by his father, she joins them at sea. Interstitials recall the tragedy that preceded these events, and primarily first-person narration details Rype’s subsequent experiences wandering the European countryside with Owen and a band of troubadours. Yet the plague follows close behind, perpetually threatening the found family with violence, suspicion, and death, and Rype realizes that it is just one of many dangers on the road. Zahler unflinchingly depicts a world in chaos due to disease, drawing contemporary parallels and thoughtfully highlighting issues of power structures, collective trauma, and remembrance. While deep bonds are formed throughout the telling, Rype’s processing her grief and finding her purpose form the character-forward story’s core, making for a novel of strength and vulnerability that will appeal particularly to readers of The Book of Boy and Northwind. Characters default to white. An end note provides additional historical context. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. (Mar.)