Mya-Rose Craig

Penguin Random House RRP $40

Reviewed by Daryl Crimp

This is a beautiful book; hardcover, quality paper, beautiful design, clean layout and exceptionally. well crafted and tightly written.

I almost didn’t read it. Twitching. The fanatical pursuit of bird watching. Written by a 20-year-old environmental activist with an agenda to ‘end the climate and biodiversity loss crises’, while promoting ‘Global Climate Justice’, the rights of indigenous peoples and campaigning for more ethnic diversity in nature. Associate of Greta Thunberg. Could it be more plaintive wailing from the disaffected youth?

So what made me read on? Firstly, the quality of the book; that the publisher invested heavily in the design and production values suggested it might be a book of substance. Secondly, from the opening sentence, I couldn’t put it down. This young woman is fascinating; a gifted storyteller; articulate and an excellent communicator. And her story is told in such a balanced and nuanced way that it has broad appeal.

I found myself quickly drawn into the quirky realm of ‘Twitchers’ and the lengths they go to just to, in some cases, glimpse a particular bird, log a rare species or tick off milestones in the quest to see all 10,000 of the world’s birds. Mya Rose has visited eight continents chasing birds and at 17, became the youngest person to see half the birds in the world. She offers a fascinating insight into the psyche of twitchers, the rules of the game, the characteristics of some unusual birds and the plight of birds in general.

Birdgirl also addresses the underlying theme of growing up in a multiracial family challenged with mental health issues. Struggling with insecurity, feelings of cultural displacement and the normal confusion of navigating youth and adolescence, Mya-Rose and her family also have to contend with a bipolar mother and the added stresses that brings. Ironically, the fanatical and stressful pursuit of ‘twitching’ is a safety valve and possibly a salvation for the family.

This is a book of substance. Very highly recommended.

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