The Baby Firebird

by Paula Harrison
Series: Secret Rescuers 3
Reviewed date: 2017 Sep 4
117 pages
cover art

The story
Talia is a ten-year-old girl with long dark brown hair. She lives in the village of Kura in the Hundred Valleys region of the Kingdom of Arramia, just across the river from the valley of Jalmar, home of the magical firebirds and the red-back dragon. Talia has a magical Speaking Stone that lets her talk to magical creatures, and she longs to visit Jalmar and meet the firebirds, but it is forbidden.

One afternoon Talia hears a rustling in the bushes. She investigates and meets Riki, a baby firebird who grew curious about the village and came to explore. Just then, Lord Fortescue and a group of soldiers ride into the village and begin a house-to-house search for magical creatures. It's not safe for Riki! Talia and her friend Lucas hide Riki in a water pot and smuggle him out of the village down to the Amarangi River, where Riki flies across to the safety of the Jalmar Valley.

But the Jalmar Valley is not safe. Lord Fortescue intends to enter Jalmar, capture and imprison the firebirds, and find and loot the legendary Cave of Wonders. Talia and Lucas cross the Aramangi River to warn the firebirds. Amber-wing, a chief firebird, explains that the peaceful firebirds cannot fight to defend themselves, and they cannot leave the Jalmar Valley. Amber-wing shows Talia and Lucas the legendary Cave of Wonders: instead of gold and treasures, it contains a magical fire pool. It is in this fire pool that the firebirds bathe and draw their strength. They cannot leave the valley and its fire pool even for a day.

So the firebirds hide in the Izzala trees of the Jalmar Valley forest. Lord Fortescue and his henchmen search the valley and find no firebirds and no treasure. But before they leave in defeat, the soldiers block the entrance to the Cave of Wonders with boulders. The firebirds are cut off from the magic fire pool. Without it, they will die.

Talia and Lucas are not strong enough to remove the rocks, and there is no time to return to the village for help. Talia realizes there is only one hope: if she can awaken the red-back dragon, he can move the stones. With Lucas's help, Talia awakens the dragon, but he only agrees to help if Talia will give him her Speaking Stone. Although it means she can never again speak to the firebirds, Talia hands it over. The dragon adds the Stone to his hoard of treasures, then Talia and Lucas and the dragon clear the rocks from the entrance to the Cave of Wonders.

The firebirds celebrate, and although Talia can no longer speak with them, she celebrates too. When the red-back dragon sees the way Talia cares for the firebirds, he returns the Speaking Stone to her, telling her, "That is no ordinary stone, and you are no ordinary girl! You are a friend to magical animals, and now you can speak to us as much as you wish."

The kid's view
My seven-year-old son was captivated by the story. He stayed up late to finish reading it, and he requested that I get him the other books in the series. That's high praise from a kid who prefers to read comic books and books of factoids rather than chapter books.

The dad's view
The story is well written and I found nothing objectionable. One thing I noticed, though, is that Talia's parents are absent from the story. Her mother is mentioned three times in passing; her father is not referred to at all. The only adult characters in the story are the bad guys: Lord Fortescue and his soldiers. It's nice, for once, to read a story in which the parents are not presented as out-of-touch buffoons, even if that is only because they are absent.

Talia and Lucas are respectful and polite; there is no rebellious streak, no bad attitudes, nothing that might serve as bad examples for young readers to emulate.

The magic is innocuous too. You won't find a Christian worldview presented, but neither is there any subtle gaia-worship or New Age spirituality. There is no ancient mystical prophecy or unseen magical karmic force. The magic fire pool that provides the firebirds with their strength is just a thing, not an object of worship or veneration. The magical creatures themselves have no special powers that I can see, and they aren't objects of worship either.

The Baby Firebird is a fun, engaging story of a girl in a fairy tale world who heroically risks her own safety to help save the peaceful firebirds. It's a great story and I recommend it.

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