Bird Boy (Volume 1: The Sword of Mali Mani)

Written and Illustrated by Anne Szabla

I’m so interested to see how my students will react to this particular graphic novel.

It starts with Bali, a 10-year old boy who does not measure up but is desperate to prove himself as a man, despite his small stature. The illustrations are so rich with detail and mythical imagery from Northwest native culture. I felt like it did not have much of a story line, but the purpose of book one was to set the scenes and the culture of the tribes, and tell about the legends that these people believed.

Review by Angela Pratt, Hillsdale Elementary Media Center
Rating: ★★★★✩ (4 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 3-6

I am not a fan of graphic novels, but if they inspire reading, then I accept that and will promote quality books that fit that standard rather than something that just has cool pictures. The Sword of Mali Mani, Volume 1 of Bird Boy, fits that requirement. The story is the timeless one of a boy who is left out of a tribal hunt or initiation because he is too small and clumsy. In this tribe and the surrounding world, everyone wears a mask, hence the title of the book. The story begins with a prehistoric legacy told in petroglyphs of an ancient hero. Through Bird Boy’s adventures he discovers a sword that belonged to this hero, Mali Mani, which may contain magical powers. I liked how the cells were larger and clearer, not overly detailed. This invokes a feeling of mythical realism and appeals to me much more than overly illustrated graphics. I loved the muted colors which add to the ambience of nature and holiness. I think this will be a popular book at our school.

Review by Terrie Bishop, Academy Park Media Center
Rating: ★★★½✩ (3.5 stars)
Interest Level: 4-9

The book opens with an ancient legend. Then we meet a little boy (Bali) who is small for his age, and the tribe trainers do not want to work with him because of his size. One even states” When you become a man, then I’ll teach you to throw.” Bali gets upset and wanders into the forest and falls into an old ancient ruin where he discovers a sword. He then returns to the camp after causing an upset with the hunt. The trainer is talking to the leader saying he never wants to take him again, and that Bali will not be participating in the traditional smoke walk. The tribe leader reminds them of the rules and Bali is allowed to go. It is on this smoke walk that he returns to the ruins, retrieves the sword and discovers it’s magical abilities. The pictures are beautiful in this book and there are so many one could easily open the book, show the scenes and say ” write a story.”

This would be a great book for 3rd and 4th graders who have a hard time reading, because the story has some challenging words, but there are many pictures to help the story carry out its plot. Kind of reminds me of king Arthur.

Review by Jalene Magee, Redwood Elementary Media Center
Rating: ★★★✩✩ (3 stars)
Interest Level: 3rd-5th Grade

Bird Boy doesn’t quite fit in and is always unintentionally causing trouble for his tribe. Then he stumbles upon the sword of Mali Mani, the Sunkeeper, a man who sacrificed his life to bring light back to the world. But the world is cold and dark again and the people pray that the Sunkeeper will return and restore balance to the world. The end of the book leads you to believe there will be more to come and that possibly Bird Boy will be the one to restore balance.

This is a quick read, but I was confused throughout and didn’t really enjoy the story or completely follow it. I appreciate the artistry but this was not a favorite of mine, probably just because of the style of the book. Those who like manga style graphic novels will be drawn to this.

Review by Jennifer B. Porter, Crestview Elementary Media Center
Rating: ★★½✩✩ (2.5 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 4-6

This book was a nice beginning to a story. It definitely is a first book and felt like it was not finished. I loved the graphics. The story is very interesting but again I would have liked more to see where it is going.

Review by Maria Bucio, Diamond Ridge Elementary Media Center
Rating: ★★★★✩ (4 stars)
Interest Level: 3rd – 5th Grade

Bird Boy (Volume 1: The Sword of Mali Mani)
Written and Illustrated by Anne Szabla
Dark Horse Books
88 pages
Release Date: May 31, 2016

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  1. Thanks for your review.

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