Sylvia and the Birds reviewed (and recommended!) in the Read NZ newsletter


Chris Reed has reviewed Sylvia and the Birds: How The Bird Lady saved thousands of birds and how you can, too in the latest Read NZ Te Pou Muramura newsletter. The verdict: recommended.

Sylvia and the Birds is a tribute to the bird lady herself, a woman who has — pretty much — single-handedly saved so many birds that she has lost count, best guess is around 140,000. But, perhaps more than that, it is a story of survival against the odds, both for the birds, but also for Sylvia herself.

Born into a challenging family dynamic, Sylvia found her early life full of abandonment, loss, and heartbreak. Yet from this came one of the most dynamic, and enthusiastic conservationists that still provides support to thousands of creatures every year.

Told as a mix of both graphic novel, and extended text, the story unfolds around the life of this remarkable woman, her dog, and a small cast of assistants and associates of the cause. Each of the stages of Sylvia’s life are headed with those of a bird’s lifetime - singling, nesting, caged birds, taking wing etc. The reader is told about her time as a young girl, through singing, through nursing and settling down as a family with her husband and children. Perhaps most notable in the cast of characters is Charlie, someone who takes up the challenge and adds to Sylvia’s ability to help those in need.

The book is illustrated by the wonderful work of Sarah Laing. Laing gives the story a real kiwi feel with wonderful vivid illustrations of Sylvia’s journey to saving so many creatures. These complement the writing of renowned poet, Johanna Emeney, who turns her hand to storytelling of the more non-fiction kind.

Overall, this is a wonderful and powerful story of support and survival against the odds. It is well worth the exploration, especially for younger readers interested in conservation at a very grassroots level.’