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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Bird Within Me (The)
by Sara Lundberg
Age Range: 9-11
This is such a gorgeous book on so many levels. Twelve-year-old Berta lives with her parents, two sisters and little brother on a farm in northern Sweden at the beginning of the twentieth century. Her father doesn’t understand her and her mother is dying from Tuberculous. Life is hard and Berta’s creative temperament is not suited to the daily grind on the farm. Her artistic soul yearns to be free and follow her dream of being an artist.
Inspired by the life of the Swedish artist Berta Hansson (1910-1994), author and artist Sara Lundberg has drawn from Hansson’s paintings, letters and diaries to produce an incredible celebration of this remarkable woman and her work. The plentiful watercolour illustrations are truly exquisite and life-like. You really feel Berta’s pain when she loses her mother, the only one she feels who really understands her and her love of art. The artwork reflects Berta’s turmoil, particularly demonstrated in the haunting image of an empty room after her mother has died. Other evocative pictures are the dream-like images of Berta and her mother floating in the clouds or Berta standing forlornly in front of a pot of pea soup on the stove with the text telling us that – “something snaps inside of her”. The lyrical prose, a testament to the excellent translation by B. J. Epstein, allows it to flow so effortlessly in English.
This is the story of a young girl who is determined to follow her own path despite the obstacles and conventions of society at the time. Lundberg has brought Berta to life with her outstanding paintings allowing a whole new audience to discover Hansson and work.