CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 10. . . . January, 2003
After lunch, Naomi and her mother took a taxi to the border with China. As Naomi stepped out of the taxi, she looked up at a large gated structure lined with the blue and white tiles that were so distinctly Portuguese. On either side of the gated area was a concertina-wire fence; at Naomi's left, people were walking into Macau, and on the right, the movement of people was in the opposite direction. Naomi walked into an area the (that?) jutted out beyond the gates and over to the fence, watching people file out of Macau loaded down with boxes and bundles of all kinds. She looked at her mother and mischievously stuck her fingers through the wire fence. "I'm in China now, without a visa!"
A Singing Bird Will Come is a sequel to Karmel Schreyer's earlier book, Naomi: The Strawberry Blonde of Pippu Town. In the first book, 12-year old Naomi and her mother are residents of Japan. A Singing Bird Will Come joins Naomi three years later, living now in Hong Kong. And that is primarily what the story is about - Naomi's life in Hong Kong, with excursions to Beijing and Macau thrown in for a change of scenery. Though this book is classified as a novel, it reads more like a travel guide. There are smatterings of storylines, but no real plot. The closest Schreyer comes is around page 50 when Naomi's mother becomes romantically involved with a male neighbor. Naomi is resentful, and the ensuing conflict - what there is of it - is revisited throughout the duration of the novel; however, the situation is never clearly resolved. Similarly, Naomi forms a friendship with Grace, a pregnant girl in a care home, but this storyline is also only partially developed, and after Grace has her baby, she disappears from the book. The greatest potential for a strong storyline revolves around Naomi's friendship with Chen, a wise elderly Chinese gentleman. But once again, Schreyer fails to follow the thread. There may be a good story lurking in Schreyer's book, but if there is, it is buried beneath heaps of information about Hong Kong. Schreyer obviously has an impressive knowledge of the area, but her readers would have been better served if she hadn't tried to share all of it. A Singing Bird Will Come is neither fish nor fowl. Schreyer has attempted to write a novel for young people, but she has done so with an adult sensibility that doesn't ring true. The result is a frustrating read.
Recommended with reservations.
Kristin Butcher lives in Victoria, BC, and writes for children and young adults.
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