Where Do You Go, Birdy Jones? by Joanna Nadin

The Blurb On The Back:

Birdy Jones is all alone.

Dad’s new family means there’s no room left for Birdy.  The only place that feels like home is Grandpa’s pigeon loft, amongst the warmth of the birds she loves to race. It’s also where she meets Dogger – her only real friend.

When Birdy uncovers a message from the past, she thinks it explains why she doesn’t ‘fit’ in her family.  But the closer she gets to the truth, the further apart she becomes from Dogger.  Why is he drifting away when she needs him the most?

Sometimes it’s those we know best who may be hiding the biggest secrets … 

You can order Where Do You Go, Birdy Jones? by Joanna Nadin from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

11-year-old Bridie ‘Birdy’ Jones lives with her dad (a cab driver), her step-mother Sadie (a hairdresser) and younger half-sister Minnie in Leeds.  Her mum died when she was very young and her dad doesn’t really talk about her plus she doesn’t really like Sadie with her big hair and chit-chat and her dislike of the racing pigeons that Birdy’s grandfather keeps and which Birdy loves spending time with.  Birdy’s only friend is Dogger, a strange boy who visits her in her grandad’s loft but who had dad doesn’t like hearing her talk about.

When Sadie announces that she’s expecting another baby, Birdy feels even more out of place, especially now that she has to produce a workbook for school explaining who she is.  So when she finds some old papers belonging to her mum and discovers a secret that her dad’s been keeping from her, Dogger urges her to find out the truth even as he seems less keen to hang out with her now that Manjit seems to want to be her friend …

Joanna Nadin’s contemporary novel for children aged 9+ is a wonderfully observed story of belonging, friendship, grief and working out who you are.  The dialogue really conveys the Leeds location and Nadin does a good job of showing the issues involved with having parents in low paid work without over-emphasising it.  The Dogger storyline had a neat magical realist vibe, although I wanted more of a resolution.

I really felt for Birdy in this book.  Nadin shows her as something of a lost girl, lashing out at Sadie who is making an attempt to connect with her but who doesn’t really understand her or what makes her tick while Birdy cannot articulate how much her reaction to the woman is linked to the loss of her mum and the feeling that Sadie has supplanted her place with her dad.  At the same time Birdy is bulled in school by Casey Braithwaite who has honed in on her feelings of being an outsider and directs and encourages mean comments to be made by the other children in her class.  This all helps to explain why Birdy is so suspicious when Manjit shows an interest in becoming her friend and I really enjoyed the scenes where Manjit shows an interest in learning more about Birdy and her granddad’s pigeons and Birdy is worried that he only wants to know in order to tease her.

All this explains why she needs her friendship with Dogger, a strange boy who seems to understand her but who has a habit of appearing and disappearing when she’s not expecting it.  Dogger’s a fun character with his imagination and naughtiness and stories about who his dad is and I liked how he encourages Birdy to be braver than she wants to be (even if sometimes it’s to the point of foolhardiness).  There is a magical realist vibe to their scenes that works well, although older readers may guess the twist.  The one thing I did want was a resolution to their storyline because I felt the way it ended kinda drifted off rather than giving a specific resolution.

The relationship between Birdy and her dad is subtly drawn.  Nadin does a great job of showing the problems in her dad’s past – his problems with reading, which means he can’t get a better paid job and how his dreams of swimming glory were frustrated by injury.  I enjoyed how Minnie’s own swimming talent exacerbates Birdy’s feelings of alienation as it shows how she’s got more of their father in her than she has.

All in all this is a really human book with believable characters and I think that children will really relate to Birdy and her feelings of not belonging.  I hadn’t read Joanna Nadin before this book but will definitely check out her other work on the strength of this.  

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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