(B) Ages 4-8, (C) Ages 8-10, (D) Ages 10-12, (E) Ages 12-15, Family Read Alouds, Fantasy, Middle Grades, Read-alongs, Resources
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Announcing: The Bird Boy Project!

If you’ve been following Redeemed Reader for the last few years, you may remember some of the read-alongs we’ve done, such as The Hobbit, Pilgrim’s Progress, and several books in our reading series.  Today we’re announcing a chance to read a novel that hasn’t been published yet—both a preview and an invitation to advise the author.

I’m the author.  My latest venture into middle-grade fiction is a little different than my previously-published novels (such as The Middle of Somewhere, Somebody on this Bus, and I Don’t Know How the Story Ends).  Those were all realistic or realistic/historical fiction.  Bird Boy is a fantasy based on a single idea:

My son the artist dashed off this picture several years ago while manning a caricature booth in California, and when he posted it on his favorite artists’ website it was the daily favorite.  He emailed it to me, and I was charmed right away.  Also proud: my Son the Artist!  But I kept thinking about the picture.  What interested me most was the contrast of the everyday with the extraordinary; a very average preteen boy who happens to be flying.  But he’s not just flying, with no apparatus, like Peter Pan.  I started thinking, what if a boy actually could grow a pair of full-feathered wings?  How difficult would they be to adjust to?  How would he learn how to use them?  What other physical attributes would he have to possess in order to actually fly?

Maximum Ride, a popular middle-grade fantasy series by James Patterson, imagines a group of kids ages 8-16 who were outfitted with wings as a kind of mad-scientist project.  But they could also fold up the wings somehow and pass for normal.  This seemed like cheating to me; a human being with avian equipment (just assuming it was possible) would not be able to just fold it all up and tuck it away when on the ground.  In fact, wings would be a royal pain.  And what other complications would ensue?  And how did it happen, anyway?  Some kind of crazy random-mutant-gene prank, or the result of deep purpose?

This is actually my third attempt at the winged-boy story, and it may be my last, if it turns out that fantasy isn’t really my forte.   But let’s try it once more.

Next week I’ll post a reminder of this project, along with an invitation to sign up for an email list.  The following Friday, Sept. 1, we’ll kick off with the Prologue and Chapter 1.  Those who participate will receive one chapter per day, Sundays and Labor Day excluded, throughout September.  The chapters will be in .pdf format and may be downloaded to a Kindle or Kindle app.  Chapters can be read privately by any number of family members, or you might consider a family read-aloud.  As a bonus, many chapters will include notes at the end (which you may feel free to skip) and suggestions about what to look for in the next installment.

We haven’t worked out the details yet, but we’ll also provide space for readers to comment.  Here’s your chance to influence a work in progress!  Readers of all ages may feel free to ask questions, suggest changes, and respond to other comments (compliments are always appreciated, too!).

This would all be helpful to me as the author, to receive feedback.  But it could also benefit you:

  • Families can enjoy read-aloud time together.
  • Home educators can incorporate it in their school curriculum as literature studies.
  • School librarians can offer it as extra credit to readers who follow along.
  • Language Arts teachers can use it as a group project and fodder for classroom discussion.

Personally, I think this will be fun.  But since I’m the author, I can’t say much about the book itself.  So without further ado, here’s Betsy:

(Betsy) Yes! I think this will be a fantastic experience. Janie sent me a copy of Bird Boy a few weeks ago to preview, and it’s been a wild ride. I’ve been planning to sign my kids up for the project as soon as it goes live. I’ve read all of Janie’s middle grades fiction and thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. But Bird Boy is a different kind of book, and it’s been fun to see her work her usual middle grades magic in a different sort of story (boys with wings don’t exactly constitute realistic fiction). Since we’re currently homeschooling, my kids will be reading a chapter a day for “school,” although they are pretty pleased that they get to read Janie’s new book –pre-publication– for “school work.” I think it would be great to do this with a group of kids if you don’t have kids close enough in age to read together; discussing any book makes it better and knowing you’re helping the author finetune things makes it even more interesting! I’d jump on this if I was still a school librarian, too!

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6 Comments

  1. I’m late for this, but can I still join? I’m an author of middle grade historical fiction, and don’t usually read the fantasy stuff that reigns as most popular these days. But I can learn something about my craft by reading this, I’m sure.

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