Review: The Theory of Hummingbirds by Michelle Kadarusman

on Middle Grade, LoveOzKidLit
The Theory of Hummingbirds by Michelle Kadarusman
Published by Univeristy of Queensland Press
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This post is part of the Aus YA Bloggers Blog Tour and a copy of the book was provided by the publisher.

Synopsis

Alba has been best friends with Levi since forever. They’re both obsessed with hummingbirds and spend their lunchtimes hiding out in the school library. Alba normally doesn’t mind that Levi’s got a science theory on just about everything. But when he becomes convinced the school librarian has discovered a wormhole in her office, Alba thinks maybe he’s gone too far.
Then there’s Cleo. That’s what Alba calls her left foot, which was twisted in the wrong direction at birth and has been strapped in a brace for most of Alba’s life. With the final cast about to come off, Alba is set on running in her first cross-country race. But what if Levi doesn’t believe she can do it?
Alba’s only ever wanted to be ‘normal’, so why does it feel like she’s losing more than Cleo and a pair of crutches?

Review

I wasn’t sure about posting today, in this specific moment. But I have committed to it as part of a blog tour. I would like to ask you to donate to the First Peoples Disability Network.

The Theory of Hummingbirds by Michelle Kadarusman is an incredibly sweet and moving story for young readers (8+). The writing and overall story have a lovely simplicity through which Kadarusman explores the complexities of human experiences. It’s perfectly pitched towards to young readers, full of charm, depth and emotion. I actually cried a couple of times.

In writing this story, Michelle Kadarusman pulls from her own experiences as a child with congenital talipes equinovarus, more commonly known as club foot. It is wonderful to get more #ownvoices disability rep for kids books. The books I had access to as a child were nearly always from the perspective of an able-bodied sibling or kid who 'learnt to be friends', so I am glad publishing is moving away from that. This book does a great job of showing Alba as a whole person, without downplaying the reality of growing up with a disability.

The friendship between Alba and Levi was really nice. Alba is preoccupied with becoming normal and Levi is convinced that the school librarian has discovered a wormhole. Their relationship with each other is really well written, from their history together being the only kids not allowed to run around during PE, their bonding over hummingbirds and their conflict within the story.

I particularly thought the story did a great job of showing how Alba was treated by her peers, and the impact it had on her. Because the rest of the kids at school (apart from Levi) didn’t know what to do about her difference, they actually caused her a lot of pain even though they didn’t have bad intentions. This is a very valuable element to the story and hopefully will help readers see that you can be harmful without meaning to and that you can actually just ask people what accomodations they need instead of making assumptions or not doing anything.

Other points I loved were the great adult characters (especially Abla’s mum), Levi’s absolute obsession with wormholes and the integration of hummingbird facts throughout the book. The glossary of hummingbird facts at the end was a particularly nice inclusion.

Overall, a really excellent story, for the younger end of middle-grade readers.

Don't forget to check out the other tour stops.


Children’s author Michelle Kadarusman grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and has also lived many years throughout Indonesia and in Canada. Her children’s novels have been nominated for various awards and honours including the Canadian Governor General's Award, USBBY Outstanding International Book List, the Freeman Book Award and the Malka Penn Book Award for Human Rights in Children’s Literature. Her work is published internationally and has been translated to Spanish and Turkish.

Find Michelle online via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and  Goodreads.

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