The Boy, The Bird & The Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods
I’m pretty sure I heard about this book from one of the dozen book-related podcasts I listen to but for the life of me, I can’t remember which one. The title was catchy and I remember some raving about wonderful writing but I couldn’t recall what the book was actually about. It came as part of a huge stack of Library holds and I was worried I wouldn’t get a chance to get around to it. Luckily, the Hubs had a meeting and The Kid was occupied and the chicken needed some time to roast which left just enough time to devour this little book about love, family, and believing in something bigger than yourself.
The Boy, The Bird & The Coffin Maker is about those three things-a little boy who needs a home, a loyal bird, and an old man who needs a family. When sickness hits the small magical village of Allora, where the fish literally jump out of the sea and into your arms, few are spared. Alberto, who used to be the furniture maker, becomes the coffin maker when his wife and three children die alongside many others in the village including the original coffin maker. Now all alone, Alberto devotes his time to ensuring the villagers all have a coffin and a funeral when they pass. After the death of a local woman, Alberto begins to notice food missing from his kitchen. When he finally catches the thief he is surprised by how young the culprit is and can’t figure out where the boy had come from. Could the recently deceased woman had a child? How did no one ever know? It turns out, Tito and his mother had been on the run for years trying to stay ahead of his cruel father. With Tito is a mysterious bird who won’t leave Tito’s side. But Tito won’t need to be alone if he can just learn to trust Alberto and start a new life as a coffin maker’s apprentice. When Tito’s father comes to Allora looking for his son, Alberto has to do all he can to keep Tito safe.
With this being such a slim, little book, I don’t want to give too much more away. The writing is absolutely gorgeous and I really loved this story. Alberto is a genuinely kind and compassionate person who wants what’s best for TIto. Opening up his home to Tito allowed him to finish grieving for his lost family and to find a purpose to continue on with his life. The mayor of the town is a wonderfully rich buffoon who hires Alberto to make him a the grandest and most expensive coffin. Their interactions were very funny and I loved how Alberto was always able to semi-politely run him off.
The character of Fia, Tito’s mysterious bird, was very interesting. Alberto has no idea what type of bird she is and after injuring her wings, she doesn’t fly as well as she should. At the beginning of the story, Fia fits inside Tito’s shirt pocket. Throughout the story she steadily grows larger and larger until at the end, she becomes so large her wings span half the room. It’s with her discovery of a ruby flower that Alberto and Tito have a way to escape Tito’s father.
The writing was absolutely wonderful and I really enjoyed this story. While it’s a middle grade novel, don’t shy away from it if you completed middle school a few decades ago-it’s a great book.
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Matilda Woods has another book, The Girl Who Sailed the Stars, set to be published in June of 2019.
Full disclosure- I borrowed this copy from my local library. Always check your library first and if they don’t have it, recommend they buy a copy. We really do like getting recommendations!