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Groundwood Books

The Bird in Me Flies

Written by Sara Lundberg • Translated by B.J. Epstein

For students in grades 4 - 7 | Published August 01, 2020 | ISBN 9781773062600

Cover of The Bird in Me Flies

Regular price $18.95 CAD

120 pages | 8.25 in × 6.75 in
Print Format

About this book

The Bird in Me Flies

Sara Lundberg • B.J. Epstein

A prize-winning, illustrated novel in verse about a young girl who dreams of being an artist, inspired by the life of Swedish artist Berta Hansson.

What do you do when it feels impossible to live up to everything expected of you? When the only person who understands you disappears? When you are young and long for something that seems out of reach?

Berta dreams of being an artist, but as a girl growing up in a small Swedish farming village in the 1920s, she has little hope. She finds solace in nature, and in drawing and shaping birds from clay for her mother, the only person who seems to truly understand her. When her mother succumbs to tuberculosis, Berta feels alone, in despair and even more burdened by all the work on the farm. Can she find the courage to defy her father and the social conventions of her time, and fly free?

This beautifully illustrated novel in verse, inspired by the paintings, letters and diaries of Swedish artist Berta Hansson (1910-1994), is a universal story of grief, longing and following your dreams.

Includes an afterword by journalist Alexandra Sundqvist.

Key Text Features
biographical information

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.

Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.

Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events

Explain how specific aspects of a text's illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting)

Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.

Compare and contrast the point of view from which different stories are narrated, including the difference between first- and third-person narrations.

Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

Describe how a narrator's or speaker's point of view influences how events are described.

Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem).

Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.

About the Creators

Sara Lundberg

Sara Lundberg studied at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland, and at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm. She was a painter before she began to focus on picture books. She won the August Prize, Sweden’s highest literary honor, for the original edition of this book, among other awards. In addition to authoring several titles, she has illustrated more than thirty children’s books, including Skriv om och om igen, another August Prize winner. Sara lives in Stockholm, Sweden.

B.J. Epstein

B.J. Epstein is a writer, editor and translator. She is also a Senior Lecturer in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. A native of Chicago, she now makes her home in Norwich, UK.

Awards and Praise

Praise for Sara Lundberg and The Bird in Me Flies:

Mighty Village Spring Book Picks, 2020

“The text itself is often spare and melancholy, translated beautifully from the original Swedish by Epstein, but it’s also infused with intimacy and familial warmth. The striking illustrations—of gouache, aquarelle, and collage—reflect the emotional journey.” — Booklist,starred review

“Melancholy and moving.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Lundberg’s handsome biography of self-discovery remembers an artist who came to know without a doubt who she was meant to be.” — Publishers Weekly

“Anyone who has cultivated a dream that defies societal demands and cultural ­expectations will appreciate this affecting story of a young girl’s struggle to achieve her creative aspirations.” — School Library Journal

“The sparse written text flows smoothly and poetically. … For readers with an interest in art, The Bird in Me Flies is a book especially worth reading.” — CM Review of Materials

“Lunderg’s illustrations done in aquarelle, gouache and collage are exceptional, and easily transcend you to this time and place. The prose is equally compelling and introspective.” — Mighty Village

“A beautiful, vital children’s book about art and life, which inspires its readers to dare to follow their own bird wherever they want.” — August Prize Jury

“Lundberg tells the story with tenderness, specificity, and a spare eloquence.”— Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast Blog

“The Bird in Me Flies is a perfect refrain for a young rebel. … The greater story is about following one’s heart.” — Gunilla Brodej, Expressen 

“… a piece of (women’s) history for the youngest, but executed in a fashion of high artistic originality — never preachy or stilted. The illustrations are incredibly beautiful … The language is poetic and lovely, and full of implicit sorrow and longing … This is children’s literature at its finest.” — Ida Therén, writer and cultural critic, ETC

“This book shouldn’t be missed, by neither children nor adults …” — Västerbottens-Kuriren

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