After capturing the hearts and minds of young readers (and many an adult) with her brilliant books featuring beetles and trains, M. G. Leonard now turns her attention to birds. I love birds and I love any kind of book that has a mystery to solve so Twitch sounded like the perfect read for me.
The summer holidays, a time for enjoying yourself and having incredible adventures, and twelve-year-old Twitch is about to have the most eventful of summer breaks. It’s the last day of school and Twitch is excited for the start of the summer holidays. Without school, he will be able to spend his days at his favourite place - his secret birdwatching hideout in Aves Wood Nature Reserve. But things get off to a bad start when Twitch finds himself lying on the ground, staring up at group of bullies and facing the rapidly approaching prospect of being force-fed a worm.
After surviving the encounter, largely thanks to a kind-hearted and mysterious man by the name of Billy - a fellow bird-lover -, Twitch heads over to his hideout for some quiet bird-watching. But his plans are quickly scuppered by a hive of activity in the nature reserve. Police and sniffer dogs are everywhere and a helicopter is policing the skies. A convicted bank robber has escaped from prison and is hiding out in Aves Wood and Twitch soon finds himself at the heart of a mystery where lives and millions of pounds are at stake…
Twitch is a wonderful adventure of unexpected friendships, a love of nature, finding the joy in the simplest of things - the best things in life really are free, the beauty of birds and of enjoying the outdoors and connecting with nature. Leonard delivers a pacy plot that is filled with intrigue, suspense and constantly kept me guessing. Readers familiar with her ‘Adventures on Trains’ series will know what a skilled writer of mystery she is and Twitch has all the classic hallmarks with secrets, characters who are not what they seem, misdirection and plenty of clues that need piecing together. The mystery is not the central focus of the narrative though, that honour belongs to nature and the birds and it is brilliantly done. Twitch using his skills as a bird-spotter to turn detective and using his feathered friends to help him along the way. The story is littered with bird knowledge that is seamlessly integrated as Twitch explains the dawn chorus and a murmuration amongst other things with passion and enthusiasm.
Twitch is a great character who epitomises the importance of being true to yourself, standing up for what you believe is right and being brave enough to face challenges and adversity head on. When we first meet Twitch he is a bit of a loner who doesn’t really have any friends and readily admits that he prefers the company of birds to people. Birds are easier to understand and he feels most at home when he is surrounded by his chickens in the garden, his pigeons in their wardrobe loft on the roof and the swallows that nest in his bedroom. As the story progresses, Twitch finds friendship in unexpected places as bullies change for the better and a wonderful passion for birds, nature and the environment flourishes that bonds the children.
I envisage many a child being inspired by Twitch and readers will be begging parents for a set of binoculars and a trip to the nature reserve to do a bit of bird-spotting. A brilliant read, I’ll be tweeting and chirping loudly about this one.
Recommended for 9+.
With thanks to M. G. Leonard and Walker Books for the advanced reader copy that was received through NetGalley.