- Grades: 6–8
About this book
A boy with a wing tumbles out of a fairy tale and into real life. What will life be like for him?
Once upon a time, long, long ago, there was a widowed king who had six sons and a daughter, who was tricked into marrying a witch. Even though he didn’t know she was a witch, he didn’t really trust her, and hid his children away from her, visiting them whenever he could. The witch grew suspicious, had him followed, and found out about the children. She wove six magical shirts, went to where the children were, and tossed the shirts over each of the six boys. They instantly turned into swans and flew away. The only way they could be turned back to their real selves was for Rose, their sister, to weave six shirts of scratchy starwort and stinging nettles, and for the six years it would take her to weave them, she couldn’t speak or laugh or cry. When the six years were up, her brothers would return, and when she threw the shirts over her brothers, they would change back to men. But when the six years were up, and her brothers returned, Rose was still working on the sixth shirt, and when she threw it on her youngest brother, the left sleeve was missing, and he was left forever with a swan’s wing instead of a left arm.
That’s the fairy tale. But what would it be like to be that boy, and live your life with one arm and one wing? To have a wing, always drawing you toward the sky, while your human body forever ties you to the earth? To remember the joy and the power of flight while knowing you will never experience it again? Ardwin is that boy, and at 16, he is tall and strong, skilled with a sword, a bow and a spear, able to ride, row and swim. He has a shy wildness about him, and his wing allows him to talk with animals. But he’s also known as Prince Freak, is jeered and laughed at, and feels alone in the world. Only a few friends are able to accept his human body and his swan’s wing. He longs to return to the northland where he flew with the swans. Finally he decides to do just that—journey to the lands where the swans live and see if he can find answers to his questions about who he is and how to live as a man with a wing.
Ardwin has thought about his plans for a long time, but when the emissaries come from a neighboring kingdom with a wedding contract and a golden mechanical left arm, Ardwin knows he had to leave immediately. His father has never been comfortable around him and his wing, and Ardwin knows he won’t hesitate to cut off his son’s wing to get a generous dowry and an important alliance with a neighboring king. Ardwin has thought more than once of cutting off his wing so he can be normal, but he isn’t willing to let anyone force him to do it. There are things the wing gives him that he likes and doesn’t want to lose.
Is there a place in the world for Ardwin where he won’t feel alone, an outsider looking in, always the Prince Freak? Journey with Ardwin to find out.
This Booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart