After reading Lucy Christopher’s book Stolen, I knew I had to read the rest of what she wrote as well. I was not disappointed by the next book I chose by her. Flyaway is a touching, uplifting, and all around wonderful story.
A young girl – Isla (pronounced like eye-lah) – narrates this story that begins with her and her father going out early in the morning – like they do every year – to watch the whooping swans when they return to the nearby wetlands preserve, marking the start of winter. But this year is different: newly constructed power lines injure the front line of the swans and drive the rest away. It looks like one young female is disoriented and gets left behind by those swans able to change direction and avoid the wires, but Isla and her dad have to leave before they can check on her fate.
The next weekend, Isla’s dad insists they go out again and try to find what happened to the swans, but on the path to the preserve her dad falls over with a heart attack. Isla, upset and scared, still manages to run back for the phone and get emergency help for her dad. He is transported to the hospital, and it is touch-and-go for him as he waits for a heart operation.
Meanwhile, Isla makes friends with a patient at the hospital who is about her age, named Harry. He has leukemia, and is waiting for a bone marrow transplant. The two discover that by looking out Harry’s window, they can see a young female swan on the lake, and Isla thinks she is the one that got separated from the flock the day the whoopers arrived at the preserve. She goes out to see her and the swan is not afraid of Isla, and amazingly, becomes attached to her. She even imitates Isla’s behavior, but does not seem to know how to fly back to the rest of her flock.
With the help of her grandfather, Isla constructs swan wings that she can wear to teach her swan how to fly, reporting on her progress to both her father and to Harry. As the book approaches its denoument, readers have three “patients” about whom to worry: Isla’s much-loved dad, the infectiously optimistic Harry, and the faithful and intrepid swan.
Evaluation: This book intended for a middle grade audience is enchanting. Christopher takes unusual and interesting circumstances and explains the characters’ reactions to them with everyday impressions and feelings that combine to capture the imagination and pull us into the story. Moreover, all of the characters are absolutely endearing, but each in a quite different way.
Published by Chicken House, 2011