Can a birdwatcher outwit an escaped convict?
Twitch has three pet chickens, four pigeons, swallows nesting in his bedroom and a passion for bird-spotting. On the first day of the summer holidays, he arrives at his secret birdwatching hide to find police everywhere: a convicted robber has broken out of prison and is hiding in Aves Wood. Can Twitch use his talents for bird-spotting to hunt for the dangerous prisoner and find the missing loot?
Thank you to NetGalley and Walker Books for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Last year I was introduced to the wonderful world fo M.G. Leonard when I read The Highland Falcon Thief, which she co-wrote with Sam Sedgman. I absolutely loved it, and so as soon as I saw a new book by her available on NetGalley I simply had to request it. Then I read the blurb, and needed no more convincing! A bird-spotting detective? It sounded incredible, and it certainly lived up to the expectation!
Twitch is a remarkable main character. He’s a twelve-year-old boy with great compassion, inventiveness, and courage. In his first scene he stands up to a bully threatening to kill an injured pigeon, and saves the bird despite knowing it will make his life at school difficult. He trains said pigeon’s squabs to be messenger birds. He’s built an entire hide in the woods to birdwatch from, and his skill in doing so really surprised me! And he is kind to everyone, despite what they may have done to him previously. I really loved reading this story from his perspective. The adventure was a fun one in itself, but Twitch definitely made it even better! All of Leonard’s characters are brilliant, though. There’s Jack, Twitch’s former bully who has a softer heart than he likes to show; Amita, Twitch’s next door neighbour, a chatty older woman who goes along with a surprising amount of hijinks; and many other people who flit in and out of the story.
What I loved particularly was the amount of bird knowledge in the book. I knew it was going to be about a birdwatcher, but was definitely surprised by how much passion flowed from the page; you can tell that the author put a lot of thought and love into this aspect of the story. It made me want to start my own list of birds and wake up at 5 to listen to the Dawn Chorus! I also really enjoyed the way Twitch uses his bird knowledge so well to solve the mystery of the escaped convict and the missing loot. It was done in a really fun way.
‘ “Patience,” his grandad always used to say, “is the silent call that brings the owl, the hawks and the falcons.” ‘
The mystery itself is also great. As someone older than the intended audience, when I read middle grade mystery books I tend to guess the twist a little ahead of time, but still enjoy the journey the characters take, but with Twitch I definitely didn’t see things coming! The entire reading experience was delightful and full of surprises, and I can’t wait to see what this little group of twitchers will do next!
Published: 3rd June 2021 by Walker Books
Genre: middle grade, mystery
Series: Twitcher, book one
Narration style: third person past tense
Format read: eARC
Copy owned: not currently, but will be buying a physical copy
Trigger Warnings: bullying and mild references to violence