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The Independent Critic

 Book Review: The Secret Language of Birds by Lynne Kelly 
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It's no secret that after a more intense reading experience I tend to gravitate toward something to clean my literary palate. Award-winning author Lynne Kelly's "The Secret Language of Birds" has been just such an experience, a beautifully told story that warms the heart and captivates the mind with equal vigor.

The story centers around Nina, an oddball of sorts in both her large family and at school. Attempting to sort some things out, she decides to spend part of her Summer at her aunt Audrey's summer camp to the shock and slight dismay of her loving but somewhat detached parents.

Initially intending this to be merely a brief deviation from her Summer routine, Nina finds herself drawn toward a unique group of girls where it would seem she's just a little bit less odd. One night, they follow the camp tradition of heading out to investigate an allegedly haunted infirmary and thus begins a remarkably tender story once she discovers a pair of endangered birds about to lay eggs in the marshes behind the old, abandoned infirmary. Already an amateur birdwatcher herself, Nina suspects they're whooping cranes, though that seems impossible since whooping cranes haven't been seen in these parts for years.

Our story turns into a myriad of wonderful little branches to this literary tree. "The Secret Language of Birds" is part mystery, part coming-of-age, part story about friendship and finding one's place and one's identity.

The characters here are vividly brought to life by Kelly, some before we even truly meet them. One can practically see this precious little camp with doting Audrey, curious campers, protective camp counselors, a haunted infirmary, Miss Odetta, and those wonderful and mysterious birds.

As a reader with disabilities, I even found myself completely enchanted by how intelligently and respectfully Kelly weaves a deaf character into the occasion and deals with the issue of inclusion.

There's so much beauty here that even as the closing pages were winding down I found myself wanting to read it all over again.

"The Secret Language of Birds" is one for the collection, a delightful middle-grade novel with believable characters and a story destined to become a classic. I enjoyed it from beginning to end and can't wait to read it all over again.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic