As a child, it can seem that everyone else knows what is best for you, particularly the adults in your life. Everyone has an opinion about who you are, what you should do and what you can be. It often feels like everyone is allowed to have their opinion…everyone except the one person that really matters, you. And this is exactly what happened to Swedish artist Breta Hansson. But Breta wasn’t going to let others define who she could become…
From a young age, Berta Hansson always dreamed of being an artist. But those around her knew that the world was not ready for such a thing. Growing up on a farm in Hammerdal, northern Sweden, she was expected to carry out farmyard duties; tend to the animals, plough the fields and cook the meals. And when she was old enough, she would marry and become a housewife. This is what those before her had done and this is what those after her would continue to do, or so her father said.
Berta knew that this was not the life for her and she would sneak off to draw on the hillside and to sculpt using the clay in the gully near the farm. Fortunately for Berta there were people in her life who shared her passion for art. Her Uncle Johan painted and shared stories and paintings created by Michelangelo. Another who had a love for art was the local doctor who Berta regularly visited for check-ups due to her mother suffering from tuberculosis. She would sneak to his house in the middle of the night and stare through his windows at the paintings that hung on his wall.
With a stout resolve and a determination not to conform to the expectations of others, Breta would ensure she reached her goal of being an artist. Finding the bird within herself and flying off to live out her dreams.
The Bird Within Me is a true story that is been based upon the letters and diaries that Breta wrote and the paintings that she created during her lifetime. Despite experiencing much sadness in her early years - her mother died from tuberculosis and her sister would succumb to the same fate - her story is an absolute joy; it is uplifting and empowering. Its message to all readers, young and old, is to pursue your dreams, follow your own path, never give up and above all else, do not let others define your future.
The artwork that features throughout is exquisite and befits such a story - you really feel like you are being immersed into the life of this young artist through both the prose and the images. In addition to the story, there is a fantastic nine page black and white biography at the end.
For any readers hoping to break free from the mould and find the bird within themselves, they would be well served to read this and take inspiration and hope from the wonderful Breta Hansson.
Recommended for 10+.