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What the Birds See Hardcover – Feb 2003

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Hardcover, Feb 2003

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press (MA); 1 edition (Feb 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763620920
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763620929
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.5 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,640,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Sonja Hartnett was born in Melbourne in 1968, the second of six children. Her first book, Trouble All the Way, was written when she was just thirteen and published two years later. Since then she has gone on to write numerous successful novels, many of which have received awards in her native Australia, in particular Wilful Blue, which won an IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) Award and was adapted for theatre. Another of her titles for Walker Books is the acclaimed Thursday's Child. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Little spud on 26 May 2008
Format: Hardcover
Having just finished this beautiful poignant novel, I had to remind myself it was aimed at young adults - it succeeds easily as adult fiction. Nine year old Adrian is lonely - rejected by his only friend he befriends the strange new children who have moved nearby. Ironically he is surrounded by the affection of those unable to demonstrate it - his young agrophobic uncle, whose attempts at consoling Adrian are so touching, is too damaged himself to ultimately be of help to the boy; his bad-tempered grandmother's love for the child too often masked. Hartnett makes you care for Adrian, and hope against all the evidence that things will turn out right for him. I couldn't put this book down and am relieved to find there are more by the same author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By H.P. on 30 April 2008
Format: Paperback
This is one of the saddest children's books I have ever read. Poor Adrian is only nine but has already seen too much. Passed from one inadequate parent to another he ends up living with a grandmother incapable of showing him any affection. Every aspect of life is difficult for him; he is confused by signals people give off and yet highly perceptive of their motives. I'm not sure what age child would read this but I had to finish it in one sitting.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful By some kid on 7 July 2010
Format: Paperback
When I got this book I thought it was a horror or something because it mentioned so many fantasy and bazaar things on the back.I thought he would discover a monster or the location or some thing. As I read It soon left all relevance and started talking about his life. Near the end, with all mention of ,what the birds see, etc I thought it might finally reach some sort of supernatural solving of puzzle and.................... The main caricature and his best friend randomly drowned in a swimming pool and thats the end of the book. this left me baffled to what the hell the plot was supposed to be. So unless you are obsessed by fictional and irrelevant child phycology, DON'T BOTHER BUYING THIS BOOK!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 12 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A Hard Sell 15 Mar 2003
By Inspector Gadget - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The blurb on the back of this book got me pretty interested. A sea monster. Missing Children. A lonely boy and his only pal. It kind of built up a picture of two kids teaming up to find a sea monster who kidnaps children. Plus it is set in 1977, which indicated some sort of nostalgic appeal to me, but it ends up being a bit pointless.

My guess is that this book is mostly a true story. Sonya Hartnett states that Adrian (our main, and lonely character) is very much based on her (in 1977 she would have been Adrian's age) and her reaction to the Japanese finding a sea monster would be identical to Adrian's. Considering that the story doesn't really go anywhere the whole thing seems to be some sort of vanity project. There is no point in really anything that happens and it builds up to a questionable (though utterly heartbreaking) climax that links nothing together. The book is NOT about a sea monster. It's NOT about missing children. It's NOT about 1977.

It's set in an unidentified Australian suburb in a cold fall where Adrian wanders around watching things and never being a part of them. He feels so totally alone and friendless. Then a new family of kids move in over the street and he strikes up an 'iffy' friendship. From here things become bleaker and bleaker until the depressing ending seems the only possible conclusion. While it may be a negative ending I guarantee that you'll never forget it.

Perhaps my assumptions of what the book would be about led to disappointment. And maybe a realistic story full of dead ends is better than something fantastical and fake. The realistic approach is good for kids (not necessarily a kid's book I must add) and I'm glad there is a book accessible to children that isn't all fun and games and magic.

What The Birds See (the title puzzles me) is full of despair and torment. And trust me, no child or adult will be cheering at the ending.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A lovely, haunting read... 2 May 2003
By Greg Hills - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This author can WRITE. There are writers who just put words down on paper, and then there are artists, creating entire worlds, interior and exterior. Sonya Hartnett is an artist.
The story is haunting, a mystery of sorts, nearly lyrical in places. Many places. I'd not want to give anything away. The perceptive reader will pick up on clues as it is.
As it is, we have the tale of a nine year old boy who does not ...well, how do you say it...just doesn't come prepared to handle the tasks and toils of living. He is etherial, more spirit than flesh, and doesn't fit into the world as do the flesh-bound. This is his life, this short novel is (which, by the way, is far more geared for adults than for teens, who haven't yet lived enough to grasp it).
The bird imagery is right on target, a constant metaphor that connects the entire story like a flock of separate, yet united, birds in flight. It is not a matter of whether or not the story is a happy one, for everything in life needn't be Disney. It is, moreover, a story that will land in the inside of the reader, a bird flown from the pages and into the heart.
It will stay there for a very long time.
I cannot fully express how worthy a read this is, and yet how unnerving.
I am in awe. It is a flawless novel.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
What the Birds See 5 Mar 2003
By Lily Meier - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I just recieved this book for my birthday. I began reading it and i was hooked from the first page. The beginning is amazing and as the book continues, you begin to get sucked into Sonya Hartnett's dark world that she creates in the book. I strogly suggest this book to anyone who loves to read!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Larry L. Looney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
...either of which would be a great achievement, writing as the author does centered on the point-of-view of a nine-year-old boy in a lot of emotional pain. Adrian has been dumped more than once in his life - taken from his mother by the State when it is determined that she is unable to care for him, then later by his father who feels his `freedom' threatened by the presence of a child in his life. He lives with his grandmother Beattie and his uncle Rory - they have issues of their own, as does apparently everyone in his family. Beattie has lost her husband to cancer, and repeatedly muses in near-depressive resignation about being the mother of three adult children who cannot really be adults in the world. Rory is an emotional cripple as a result of a car accident that made a vegetable of his best friend, a direct result of rebellion against the upbringing Rory was given by his parents - he has become agoraphobic, never leaving the house. Sookie, Adrian's mother, is completely out of the picture (as is his dad) - no one has any idea of her whereabouts. Marta, Beatie's other daughter (who changed her name from Maggie when she decided it wasn't glamorous enough), is so cold and self-centered that when she comes to visit she sows nothing but conflict.
Into this atmosphere comes Adrian - actually a pretty normal nine-year-old, despite his view of himself. He's teetering on the brink of adolescence, and he's dealing emotionally with a pretty heavy case of abandonment anxiety - and this colors every aspect of his life. He is already developing numerous fears and phobias at his young age - he's afraid of shopping centers, quicksand, self-combustion; but mainly he begins to worry that he's about to be cast out again. Topping all of this off - and stirring the emotional pot mightily - is the case of three children who live nearby who seem to have simply vanished while walking a few blocks for ice cream. The children's parents appear on the telly, naturally distraught and tearful, begging of their return. The only clue seems to be a sketchy description of a `thin man' who was seen near the children just before they vanished - they city is in a panic, led by the fears of parents afraid their kids will be next. An unknown enemy is always the most frightful one.
Adrian is a great example of how children become abused and damaged in ways that are not as `direct' as people imagine when they hear the term `abused child'. While there is love and kindness in his life, the loneliness that he feels, and the fears of being abandoned by the shattered family that is left to him, are all too real. He is made to feel like a burden, someone to be traded off like a pet dog when it becomes too much trouble to deal with him.
Adrian hasn't many friends - his closest friend Clinton is only a superficial one. When a new family moves in across the street with three children, he feels himself drawn to them. He befriends Nicole, the oldest of the three - there are sparks within each of their personalities that draw the other. Nicole's mother is evidently dying - or at least seriously ill enough never to leave the house - and she is subconsciously very angry at her mom about this situation. She and Adrian hatch a plan to gain the attention of their families - and the admiration of the general populace - she thinks she knows where to find the missing children.
Another character that is portrayed vividly in this novel is a child named Sandra - most of the kids in school know her as Horsegirl. Sandra is a mysterious child with obvious emotional problems who has been placed in a school with neighborhood kids - she is both feared and ridiculed by her classmates, again depicting the fear with which we regard things we do not understand. Horsegirl is taller than the rest of her class, and loves to prance around like a horse, whinnying and neighing and snorting and stamping her feet. She carries a leather bridle and bit, sometimes running on the playground with the bit in her mouth - probably the only time she gets to feel a bit of freedom and happiness. When a substitute teacher comes to fill in while the children's regular instructor goes on her honeymoon, she is evidently not made aware of how `special' Sandra is - or how much liberty she has been granted in the classroom. A confrontation ensues, and Horsegirl lashes the substitute across the face with her bridle - the class is shocked and electrified, realizing deep inside that a line has been crossed.
All of Hartnett's characters - the adults and children alike - are wonderfully drawn, and the emotions that run so deeply through her story are honestly, delicately and believably portrayed. There are no punches pulled here - and that makes for a pretty rocky ride emotionally for the reader, but it's a ride that's more than worth it.
Hartnett has a fine reputation as an author of novels for young adults - and I suppose that's why this novel is grouped there. I've seen notes that say `ages 9 and up' regarding it - but I think it's a bit strong for younger readers. Moreover, I think it does the novel a bit of a disservice - this is a well-written work that can and should be enjoyed by a wider range of readers. Pitching it into the `young adult' bin is going to cause adult readers to skip over it - and that would be a shame. I feel fortunate that I came across it in the library with no indication of `reading level' attached to it - I would have missed out on something very memorable and rewarding.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
So Beautifully Written! 4 Jun 2003
By "nabbott6" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A long song, really... All the things that broke your heart in childhood, brought back sharply in your mind, all the disappointment of adulthood on display... Dark, yet so poignant, yearning, beautiful, sad and dark and lonely, and... Brilliant.
I have to sit quietly after reading anything by Ms. Hartnett. she makes my soul shiver.
Read it. You be the judge.
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