Book Review of Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull

Posted October 22, 2012 by Kara in Uncategorized / 16 Comments

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

Release Date: October 2nd, 2012
Pages: 344
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Source: I received a paper arc from the publisher.

Blurb (from Goodreads): 

An enchanting—and twisted—tale of two sisters’ quest to find their parents.
When their parents disappear in the middle of the night, young sisters Summer and Bird set off on a quest to find them. A cryptic picture message from their mother leads them to a familiar gate in the woods, but comfortable sights quickly give way to a new world entirely—Down—one inhabited by talking birds and the evil Puppeteer queen. Summer and Bird are quickly separated, and their divided hearts lead them each in a very different direction in the quest to find their parents, vanquish the Puppeteer, lead the birds back to their Green Home, and discover the identity of the true bird queen.

With breathtaking language and deliciously inventive details, Katherine Catmull has created a world unlike any other, skillfully blurring the lines between magic and reality and bringing to life a completely authentic cast of characters and creatures.


Summer and Bird was something. I loved it and hated it at the same time. That’s right. It was one of THOSE books. There was an equal amount of like and dislike, and I guess I should start with the positive qualities first.

I really liked the writing style. For a first book, you would never be able to tell. I am usually a fan of books where the writing has a dreamy/whimsical style. This book had that and I really enjoyed the way the narrator told the story. Yes, Summer and Bird is written in third person omniscient point of view. And I LIKED it. I don’t read a lot of books with this POV–it’s not that common anyway–but the ones I have read I felt were executed well. This one is no different. The only thing I wish is that we found out some information about the narrator. Had no idea who it was. 

But make no mistake. This is a very serious book that has a lot to say, and it includes some mature themes about family, divorce, being estranged and other things like it. It’s not really a happy book at all despite its writing style. The tone is a bit heavy and depressing which I have no problem with at all, I just want you to be prepared if you decide to read it. If you are looking for fun and mindless, you will not find it here. None of the material is inappropriate though, it’s just a much more serious book than I expected it to be.

So there is this Bird Queen. And the other birds call her the puppeteer because she makes paper birds out of many different colors and controls them with magic, dance, and strings. She’s actually an extremely talented woman, but she has wanted to be a bird and fly for so long that her heart has become corrupted. And the thing is she’s not actually the Bird Queen, she just took over the position when the real queen disappeared. And now she is the dictator of birdland and all the other birds are afraid of her. She eats them so they fly inside her body and give her bird-strength until they die. This can be a very morbid book at times. 

You’ll also travel along with Summer and Bird–sisters–as they try to find their parents in birdland which in the book is called “Down.” You see Summer and Bird’s parents disappear one night and the girls receive a picture message from their mother which they solve and somehow end up in “Down.” They meet some special characters and some pretty terrifying ones, but most of all, this is about a journey of the heart and a coming of age story for both girls. 

So what didn’t I like about the book? Well, there were times when it was pretty damn boring. There, I said it. I put it down enough times to the point where I realized the book was not holding my attention as it should have been. It just took so long to get from one plot point to the next. I felt like taking naps in between. I may have actually done that. I nap a lot. 😉 It just wasn’t an exciting book. The setting was kind of boring as well. It was this barren, snow-covered landscape and the only thing interesting in “Down” was a giant tree and the birds themselves (and there aren’t that many of them that play a pivotal role). The rest of the time the characters were trudging through a field or a forest. It was just all very blah.

Lastly, I was unsatisfied with the ending AND the character development. I just didn’t care about these characters as much as I should have. When they talked they all sounded the same. The only thing differentiating Summer from her sister was their physical description. Otherwise you would never know. Every character had a similar voice. They didn’t get much of a backstory either. And anyone who is any kind of writer knows that characters need a backstory, flaws, and a personality to make the reader care. And in my opinion, most of that was absent. The ending was completely bittersweet and I guess it sort of had to end that way, but I still found it very frustrating and unsatisfying. I can say it does teach some useful lessons about different family dynamics though.

Still, if you are looking for a book that is beautifully written and are wanting to be presented with some fairly original and unique ideas, I think you might enjoy this one. As long as you go in expecting it not to be perfect or expecting to finish it in one sitting, you should be good. I will leave you with my favorite quote from the book.

“Winter never altogether vanishes, even in the warmest summer. You can always find it lingering, if you look.” ~Quote taken from ARC copy and may have been changed. 

To purchase a copy of Summer and Bird from, click here: Summer and Bird.

16 responses to “Book Review of Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull

  1. Amy

    Even though it sounds like a beautifully written book, I don’t do good with boredom. It would definitely make me not want to continue reading. I had not heard of this one, but I think I will skip it. Thanks for the great review!

    • Thanks, Amy! I’m pretty sure your decision to skip this one is a good one. I am learning the taste of my fellow bloggers gradually, and I don’t think you would like this one.

  2. Sam

    Lovely review, Kara. I am always feeling torn over books like this, loving parts of it but being put to sleep at others. 🙂 I’m glad there were some redeeming qualities to Summer and Bird at least. I love the cover for this book!

  3. Aww, I hateee these kinds of books! Character development is one of those things I NEEED to have, so if it isn’t there, then I’m bound to despise a book, so I think I’ll skip out on this. I love the idea though – it sounds SO fascinating – so it’s a shame it was disappointing and that it was slow in parts. I have read really good books that come through at the end though, but it can be tough to get through them. Still, fantastic review, Kara! I especially love the picture you took of the book! 🙂

    • Thanks for the compliment on the picture! It was just something new I wanted to try and I am glad it worked out! I’ve been burning a lot of candles lately. Ha!

      About the book: there still is a lot to love even though it had some faults. I wouldn’t completely write it off because I did find it worth my time. The characters aren’t horrible, they are just kids and I felt they had similar voices. Meh. I still liked it overall though.

  4. I’m the same way as Keertana, character development is essential for me. Sorry this book didn’t blow you away, thanks for the honest review!

    PS. Love the picture, so eerie!

  5. Bahaha, “Summer and Bird was something.” I love sentences that don’t say anything. :-p It’s SO hard to rate books like this also. 2.5? I guess, but sometimes I hate it and sometimes I love it and AGH.

    Third person omniscient is uncommon? I guess it is in kid’s books, but I don’t feel like it’s that odd most of the time. Hmmm. I should pay more attention to this.

    I’ve been falling asleep during every book recently. I’ve just been so freaking tired. I think it’s the change of season, because why else would I fall asleep during The Diviners and Touching the Surface when they’re both so good? 10:30 and I am like passing out. UGH.

    I’ll steer clear of this. Poor character development and sort of boring is too much for the writing to pull me through.

    • No, it was a flat 3. I don’t do half stars although sometimes it would make things a whole lot easier. I have my rating system worked out pretty well though. In my head! Ha!

      Actually, I’ve only read third person omniscient 3 times recently and they were ALL kids books. And yeah, I do think it is pretty rare.

      Me too. I’ve been sleeping a lot lately. If you fell asleep during The Diviners, you MUST be tired.

      The writing is gorgeous but the story WAS a little dry. Still looking forward to more of this author’s work.

      Thanks for the well thought out comment!

  6. I had no clue what this book was about but I didn’t think AT ALL that it was heavy and/or depressing. I guess I thought it was just a MG fairy tale. This is still one of the most beautiful covers of late for me. I want to own it just so I can look at it.

    • Neither did I, Flannery. But it had a very heavy tone at times and a of of the themes were very serious. It did make me a bit sad.

      You are right about the cover. It’s freaking beautiful and it looks like the artwork is drawn right on the cover. And that was the ARC.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge