Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 12 to 18
- Grade: 7 to 12
Finalist for the 2019 International Book Awards ofr Young Adult Fiction
The Discovery of Flight is a novel in two voices about the relationship between two sisters, the older of whom is disabled by cerebral palsy and only able to communicate with assistive technology (she can control her computer by moving her eyes). It interweaves the fantasy novel sixteen-year-old Libby is writing for Sophie's thirteenth birthday, and Sophie's diary, in which she discusses the deteriorating condition of her older sister. The book's title is also the title of Libby's novel, in which Libby takes the form of a hawk telepathically linked to a girl who, like her sister, is a good artist. Sophie's diary is in fact illustrated with the occasional black-and-white drawing. The sicker Libby gets, the more she retreats into her novel and the less she interacts with the outside world. Though the situation is tragic, Sophie's voice is extremely funny and wry. In addition, through her storytelling, Libby becomes a heroic figure rather than a helpless victim. After Libby's death, the girls' mother presents Sophie with the novel and Sophie writes its final chapter, bringing the voices of the two girls together.
About the author
Born to Canadians living in Baltimore, MD, Susan Glickman convinced her parents to move home to Montreal at the age of one and a half. But that initial sense of being from somewhere never left her. She has lived in England, the United States, and Greece and extensively travelled across Europe, Asia, and America before settling in Toronto. Glickman's love for travel is matched by her love for books. She has worked in bookstores, in publishing, and as an English professor at the University of Toronto. Known for her lithe, rich poetry and brilliant literary criticism, Susan Glickman is the author of five highly regarded poetry collections, including Running in Prospect Cemetery: New & Selected Poems. Her critical study, The Picturesque and the Sublime: Poetics of the Canadian Landscape, won both the Gabrielle Roy Prize and the Raymond Klibansky Prize. Susan Glickman has been described as one of the finest of Canadian authors. She is a confident, gifted writer whose poetry and fiction exemplify beauty, insight, and power.
- Short-listed, American Book Fest International Book Awards (Fiction-Young Adult)
Excerpt: The Discovery of Flight (by (author) Susan Glickman)
I went to the drug store to buy some not-tested-on-animals shampoo and they were already playing Christmas carols. A day or two ago, the shelves were full of discounted jack-o'-lantern napkins and vampire fangs and fake blood. Obviously, smart people should buy their seasonal supplies the day after each holiday and stick them in the attic until they need them. Most packaged Hallowe'en candy wouldn't taste any different a year later anyway, it's so full of chemicals.
My dad says that when he was a kid, everyone on his street started the night's trick-or-treating at one particular house because the lady who lived there made homemade caramel apples and they ran out quickly. Another house on his street offered popcorn balls, and his mother (my Grandma Elizabeth, who I never met because she died before I was born) liked to bake cookies or fudge. Those kinds of treats are worth going door to door for, IMHO. But these days, everyone is so worried about kids getting poisoned or finding needles in apples that they won't let their neighbours make anything tasty.
What a world, what a world! to quote the Wicked Witch of the West, which is who I went as this year.
This is not as much of a weird segue as you might think because we had a Hallowe'en theme at our house this year. We all went as characters from the Wizard of Oz. It was my mother's idea. When she was growing up, that movie was on tv every year during the winter holiday and her family watched it ritually, so now she makes us do the same thing.
In case you haven't already noticed, my parents are very into "togetherness." (This is one of the reasons I spend so much time at Victoria Lee's house, by the way: her parents leave us alone. They are too busy with their careers to play board games with a couple of twelve-year-olds.) But to be fair, my mother doesn't dress Libby and me in matching outfits anymore. This time we decided to do it all by ourselves!
Libby went as Dorothy in a blue gingham dress and white apron and red slippers, with her hair in pigtails, and Baxter walked beside her wheelchair with a sign on his back saying "Toto." My dad dressed completely in grey so that if anyone asked him who he was, he could say "The Tin Man." Unfortunately, I don't know if anyone asked him. Vicky and I left the others behind right away because they were too slow (probably because everyone on the street had to stop and pat Baxter).
Vicky was dressed as Madame Curie, her idol. She borrowed a lab coat from her mother and embroidered "Marie" on the pocket. It wasn't until it got dark outside and she started to give off an eerie greenish glow that I realized how good her costume was. She'd dribbled fluorescent paint all over her lab coat to represent the fact that Madame Curie was exposed to unprotected radioactivity and eventually died from it. She also had glow-in-the-dark gloves on her hands. Most of the people whose houses we visited got the reference, and gave Vicky extra candy for being clever. Sometimes I don't give that girl enough credit!
The reason we got separated from my father and sister so quickly was that we couldn't wait to see the haunted house around the corner where a bunch of actors live. Those guys are super creative; they do something amazing every year with props like flying bats and smoke machines and it's a real highlight of Hallowe'en. Even the mums and dads in the neighbourhood have to go check them out; they pretend it's to see whether the special effects are too scary for little kids but really, they want to get in on thefun themselves. This year there was a guy dressed as a mummy standing on the roof moaning and another one lying in a wooden coffin in the front yard who kept popping up and scaring everyone. It was way cool.
Anyhow, when we left the haunted house we didn't see Dad and Libby, so we went on without them. We came back two hours later, our pillowcases bulging with seriously unhealthy treats. This is our ritual: we pour all the candy onto the living room carpet and sort it into piles and then do a comparative count of what each of us has (12 Crunchy Bars, 10 Mars Bars, 4 Coffee Crisps, 6 boxes of Smarties, and so on) so we can trade stuff. I hate jelly beans and lollypops and Vicky's allergic to peanuts; we make a perfect team in this way, as in so many others.
Still, we felt terrible when we found out what had happened to Dad and Libby. They didn't make it very far, just up one side of the street and down the other, because Libby started shivering and spacing out, and Baxter started getting alert and nervous like he does when she is about to have a seizure, so my father took them home. And she did have a seizure, a really bad one, but Dad said he was glad we kept on enjoying ourselves because, realistically, there was nothing we could have done to help anyway. Mum turned out the porch light even though it was only seven p.m. so that no more trick-or-treaters would ring the doorbell, and the two of them put Libby to bed and sat with her.
And that was that.
The school said Libby has to stay home for a while because she's having too many seizures. She's really upset, because she loves school. Also, because she's too exhausted to eat and can't be trusted to swallow properly anymore, she had to go into the hospital for a couple of days to get a tube put into her stomach. And even though the gastric tube was supposed to take away our worry about making sure she gets enough to eat, it hasn't. Because dripping stuff into a hole in your stomach doesn't seem like eating, does it? And we feel terrible sitting down to dinner when she can't join us.
She's also back on a catheter, which is humiliating. And because she's stuck in bed most of the time now, my parents bought her a new mattress that's supposed to redistribute her body weight so she doesn't get bed sores, which are much much worse than they sound, believe me. People--especially paralyzed ones like Libby--can die from them. So Mum is vigilant about turning her every two hours when she's lying down, which Libby hates. We all hate it, actually, because it means that nobody gets to sleep through the night. Even though my parents take turns moving her and they don't ask me to help, we all seem to wake up anyway.
All of which means things are majorly tense around here. Forgive me if I don't write much today. It's too hard to be funny or eloquent. I'm even too tired to be sassy, which is usually my default mode.
"A sensitive story of sisters, love, and loss, told via interweaving narratives."
--School Library Journal
The Discovery of Flight provides a compassionate perspective on a family living with a severely disabled child, but it also tells the funny, poignant story of a 12-year-old struggling with growing pains. Author Susan Glickman brings the voice of the two sisters together in a memorable and transformative ending."
--Quill and Quire
"A beautiful sibling duet. This uniquely structured novel is funny, frank, and utterly transporting."
--Kyo Maclear, author of Birds, Art, Life
"The two voices--one sardonic, the other tender--blend seamlessly in this heartbreaking story that will appeal to fans of both realism and fantasy."
--Kit Pearson, author of A Day of Signs and Wonders
"Moving, imaginative, ultimately heroic and highly readable."
--Robert Priest, author of the Spell Crossed trilogy and The Wolf is Back
The Discovery Of FlightA little hard on the heart at times, but in a lovely story of sisterhood.
The Discovery Of Flight alternates between twelve year old Sophie’s school assigned journal during the year leading up to her bat mitzvah, and her sixteen year old sister, Libby’s secret gift for Sophie, a medieval story about the bond between a girl and a hawk that echoes Libby and Sophie’s relationship.
Sophie’s journal entries have a free-flowing authentic feel, she’s inquisitive, passionate and opinionated, which I loved, she questions religion and her teachers in ways that seem true to her age and thoughtful, she advocates for and adores her sister refusing to tolerate anything less than respect for her, and there’s such a good arc where this socially aware girl comes to realize that she hasn’t be quite as aware of her grandmother and how deep down they are more like-minded than she knew.
Cerebral Palsy has Sophie’s older sister, Libby, unable to communicate in the traditional way, yet through her sister’s journal, and through Libby’s fiction, you discover her as a person, her intelligence and her dreams and how very much alive she is within her uncooperative body, she feels every bit as dimensional as Sophie in the book even though she doesn’t express herself in as direct a manner, the story very much belongs to both sisters, not just the verbal one.
Though a short read, it’s impressive how in so few pages, and in a simple writing style, the contemporary and fantasy segments weave together this fully-realized, heartwarming story of sisters, by the end you feel like you’ve truly known and loved these girls.
I received this book through a giveaway.