By Rafe Martin
Arthur A. Levine Books, Hardcover, 9780439211673, 368pp.
Publication Date: October 1, 2005
A boy marked by physical difference -- one arm is an enchanted wing -- finds his strength and purpose in this stirring fantasy.
Once upon a time, a girl rescued her seven brothers from a spell that had turned them into swans. But one boy, Ardwin, was left with the scar of the spell's last gasp: one arm remained a wing. And while Ardwin yearned to find a place in his father's kingdom, the wing whispered to him of open sky and rushing wind. Marked by difference, Ardwin sets out to discover who he is: bird or boy, crippled or sound, cursed or blessed. But followed by the cold eye of a sorceress and with war rumbling at his kingdom's borders, Ardwin's path may lead him not to enlightenment, but into unimaginable danger.
Birdwing , by Rafe Martin (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $16.99; ages
12-up). Remember the Grimms' story "The Six Swans"? A wicked queen
turns her stepsons into wild swans; the spell will be broken only if
their little sister stays mute for six years and weaves each of them a
nettle shirt. When the time is up, she has not quite finished a sleeve
on the last shirt. The brothers regain human form, but the youngest is
left with one arm and one wing. The end of that fairy tale is the
starting point for this extraordinary novel. The youngest brother is
now a teenager in the household of his father, the king. Alone among
his brothers, he still feels part of the wild world, even as he works
to overcome what the human world sees as a handicap. In the best
fairy-tale tradition, "Prince Freak" sets out to discover how he must
live. The marvelous thing about Birdwing is that, given its highly
literary origins, it is so tough, colloquial, funny and moving. But
then, having been sent back to the Grimms, you realize Martin has
merely emulated his masters. A book for kids who appreciate the likes
of William Mayne and Ursula K. Le Guin. - Washington Post