When I was twelve, my mother was being pulled in lots of directions. There were bad marriages, five children, sometimes not enough money, and always a lot of drama. I knew just enough to be nervous. Something was up, but I think my imagination made it worse or maybe not–I’ll never really know. Children feel the reverberations of their parents issues. They feel them in the silences in the house. They feel them in the loud arguments. They know much more than grown ups give them credit for knowing.

In Monika Schroder’s new book Be Light Like a Bird, twelve year old Wren finds herself in personal tragedy and turmoil because her father has just been killed in a plane crash. Her mother is not a comfort in any way. Instead she seems to distance herself further each time Wren wants to talk about the accident or her father. Instead of keeping things the same so that Wren can find peace and closure, her mother keeps moving them from town to town. Wren believes that her mother doesn’t care about her father any more and that she doesn’t miss him. Since her mother won’t share how she feels, Wren is left to wonder and make up her own mind about what is happening. Happily for Wren she meets a boy named Theo who shows her what caring feels like. Together they build on their love of the environment and Wren’s need to find closure. There are some very grownup issues in this book from the death of a parent to unfaithful spouses. Schroder deftly handles each difficult situation with the kind of care that middle graders need in order to process it and develop their own opinions.

This book is wonderful for kids who have a mind toward caring for the environment and thinking about how our natural world is managed by humans. Schroder introduces many new concepts about how relationships evolve and grow as one ages and when tragedies hit. Depending on the child, I might consider reading this one aloud so that you could answer the questions that will inevitably arise during the difficult parts of the book.

“One should be light like a bird, and not like a feather.” This quote is about how a bird is light but it can fly and take itself places. Whereas a feather is light but it floats and is controlled by the wind.