Book of Birds

Today I’m taking a bit of a departure from my usual post about the poultry in my front yard, and side yard, and back yard. Today, I want to tell you about this wonderful book I read by L.M. (Lisa) Bryski M.D., called the Book of Birds.

In post-war Canada during the late 1940s, Elly McGuinty and her younger sister, Dot, are newly orphaned. The girls are sent to live with their grandparents in a small prairie town. Still grieving the loss of her parents, Elly chafes at the responsibility of helping care for Dot and struggles to find a place for herself in her new life. When a travelling circus comes to town, Elly’s desire for new experiences leads her, Dot, and new friend Stammer – a shy boy mocked for his halting voice – down a path where lives are altered forever.

This book has really stuck with me. The characters and parts of the story have seeped into my mind, and I don’t think they will ever leave. This is a book that I will read time and again.

With the first line, “I don’t advise losing your parents when you are young,” you are instantly hooked into the story, wanting to know what it is about. Like Harper Lee, Lisa Bryski’s language is simple and easy to read, but the sentences are layered and packed with meaning.  The main character, Ellen (Ella) is a mix of Scout and Alan Bradley’s Flavia De Luce.  Like those characters, Ella is the main part of the story, but she is also an observer of the people and events surrounding her.  There are secrets, and part of the story is her learning about them, and as she learns, growing up a bit more.  This is also a tale about loss. The loss of her parents, and later on, her sister.  It is also about relationships, and how complex they are.  Ella is in a small town where there is more going on underneath than can be seen from the top.

One of the devices Bryski uses to tell the story is Ella’s Book of Birds.  It was given to her by her father. Her sister, Dot, has a stuffed rabbit for comfort, and Ella has her book. At one point, Ella goes to the circus, and while there sees a bird from her book, a Drongo.  Ella sets it free, and even though the bird itself isn’t the main part of the story, Bryski skillfully uses it to illustrate how Ella is like the bird, trying to navigate a strange new land.


 L. M. (Lisa) Bryski, MD, is Canadian, convenient since her home is somewhere in Canada. She could reside most anywhere though, as she spends considerable time living in her own head. Lisa is a real doctor, but doesnt play one on TV. She gets to wear a lab coat at work, and she likes to fix emergencies, not cause them.

 Lisa has many proclivities, including a love of pancakes and all things breakfast. She enjoys reading and writing, and is very proud of her pronunciation of difficult words. Her humour is horrible, her punctuation abysmal, but she always finds a way to end her sentences with a period piece.

 The Book of Birds is Lisas first novel. The narrative is a 1940s coming of age story inspired by many childhood visits to Saskatchewan, a love of ornithology and the Marx Brothers movie, At the Circus. Somehow in Lisas oddball mind, it all came together in the form of a book. Lisas novel tells of Elly and her sister Dot, newly orphaned girls who move to a small prairie town to live with their grandparents. Ellys struggles to fit in lead both girls into danger. The consequences are unfortunate, and hopefully well worth the money to read about.

 You can find L. M. Bryski on Twitter as @LMBryski. She also has a website,, and can be reached by email,  Enquiries about the author may also be made through Moran Press.



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