The Art of Flying

illus. by Stephanie Graegin. 320p. Hyperion-Disney. 2013. RTE $16.99. ISBN 9781423158158. LC 2013012097.
Gr 4–6—In this debut fantasy, Hoffman spins a tale of transformation. Eleven-year-old Fortuna's presence has been requested by her mysterious and strange neighbors, the old Baldwin sisters. They have transformed a sparrow into a boy, now called Martin, and are trying to restore him to his former self. However, Martin has run away, and they only have five days to turn him back before the change becomes permanent. Fortuna is recruited to help find the missing child because she's the daughter of a bird scientist, and as a child, she still has the ability to believe in magic. As she sets out on her hunt, her friend Peter has his own adventure in the woods, including a puzzling boy with birdlike qualities. Could this be the missing Martin? Or are there two fowl-turned-kids roaming their neighborhood? And who is the threatening man lurking near Fortuna's house, and how is he connected to the girl's quest? Fortuna is a likeable protagonist and the witchy sisters are comical, and ever-so-slightly scary. The transformed characters retain certain bird mannerisms, which adds interest and mild humor. The plot resolves neatly and satisfactorily, making this novel an appealing choice for those who like their fantasy on a smaller scale.—Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City
An errand to help her neighbors, the reclusive Baldwin sisters, leads Fortuna to uncover layers of secrets: the sisters are witches, and they've broken witch law by transforming several birds into humans. Omniscient narration gives this unusual fantasy broad appeal by looking at the story from a variety of angles. Spot art decorates each new chapter.

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