The Bird in Me Flies

Groundwood/House of Anansi. Aug. 2020. 120p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781773062600.
Gr 2-6–This fictionalized biography depicts Swedish artist Berta Hansson’s childhood. Told in verse, the text chronicles the events leading up to Hansson’s departure from her village as a young woman in 1927. Hansson wanted to continue her education and pursue her interest in art; she was expected to stay and help with the family farm until she got married. Her passion for art, however, couldn’t be suppressed. Hansson’s uncle, who was a painter himself, inspired his niece. The family doctor, who noted and nurtured Hansson’s talents, also supported her. Ultimately, her father gave her permission to leave the farm and embark on an art career. The illustrations, done in gouache, collage and watercolor, add context and detail to the story, allowing for the passage of time and change of place without explicitly naming these transitions. The power of Hansson’s story comes through the matter-of-fact first-person narration (informed by her diaries) and is enhanced by Lundberg’s illustrations, which echo Hansson’s art. A lengthy afterword continues and completes the details of Hansson’s journey to becoming a prominent expressionist; photographs and original artwork are included.
VERDICT 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. Recommended for larger collections to supplement artist biographies.

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