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Rafe Martin In his own words...
Birdwing by Rafe Martin
-- Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Press.

Once upon a time, a girl rescued her six brothers from a spell that had turned them into swans. But one boy, Ardwin, was left with the scar of the spell's last gasp: one arm remained a wing. And while Ardwin yearned to find a place in his father's kingdom, the wing whispered to him of open sky and rushing wind. Marked by difference, Ardwin sets out to discover who he is: bird or boy, crippled or sound, cursed or blessed. But followed by the cold eye of a sorceress and with war rumbling at his kingdom's borders, Ardwin's path may lead him not to enlightenment, but into unimaginable danger.

In this mythic and heroic novel, a young man with a left wing instead of an arm must find his own, unique place in life. How did he get the wing? Magic! Why the left side? That is the side of intuition and the heart.

The old Grimm's Brothers' tale of "The Six Swans" ends like this: The six shirts were ready, only the left sleeve of the sixth was wanting. ". . . The swans swept toward her and sank down so that she could throw the shirts over them, and as they were touched by them, their swans' skins fell off, and her brothers stood in their own bodily form before her, and were vigorous and handsome. The youngest only lacked his left arm, and had in the place of it a swan's wing on his shoulder." (from "The Six Swans," The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales)

Birdwing begins there, where the old tale ends. What happens to that boy? What is his destiny? What kind of young man will he become? How will he find his place on this earth and be happy, when all who see him think him a cripple or worse, a freak? His story has been waiting perhaps a thousand years to be told. Now at last we will know what happens in the ever after.

Rafe writes: "We all have a wing. Some hide theirs to fit in. Some cut theirs off to appear like everyone else. And some learn to live fully with their wing, just as they are, and, in fully accepting themselves and their own unique gifts, heal not only themselves, but the kingdom."
Ages 9-12

Books by Rafe Martin

The Boy Who Lived with the Seals
The Boy Who Loved Mammoths
The Brave Little Parrot
Dear As Salt
The Eagle's Gift
Foolish Rabbit's Big Mistake
The Hungry Tigress
The Language of Birds
The Monkey Bridge
Mysterious Tales of Japan
One Hand Clapping: Zen Stories for All Ages
The Rough-Face Girl
The Shark God
A Storyteller's Story
The Storytelling Princess
The Twelve Months
Will's Mammoth
The World Before This One: A Novel in Legend

Rafe MartinI began telling stories professionally about the same time I started writing picture books-over twenty years ago. Foolish Rabbit's Big Mistake, The Rough-Face Girl and Will's Mammoth were where I began and each of those books still retains a special place in my heart.

Children's books remind us of real and important things-trusting the heart, following one's dreams, respecting oneself and all the many lives and life-forms with whom we share our planet. Children's literature allows us to speak directly to the imagination. There is nothing "kiddie" about that. And the imagination is quite reasonable, even rational. But its logic is not of the marketplace, but of dream. And out of our dreams comes our lives. If we dream well, we have the possibility of living well. Stories teach us to dream well. In stories, our deepest wishes and dreams have a chance of coming true. In so-called children's literature we remind ourselves of what we really want and what we really hope will happen-for all of us. Every good book is an attempt to bring the world we wish for that much closer. Every good book leads through difficulties and dangers to a happy ending. But every good book also shows us, experientially, through the lives and thoughts and deeds of the characters, what qualities will help us through the hedge of thorns that guards and surrounds the hidden castle of fulfilled and awakened dreams.

Many of my picture books have drawn their inspiration from the world of traditional tales, which form a repository of the grammar of the imagination, handed down to us by our ancestors around the world. Some have emerged out of my interest in Native American literatures-stories that connect us to the earth and living things, to these skies, these hills.

Recently I have focused on writing novels instead of picture books. In writing picture books I "take back" words, leaving space for the illustrator. A good picture book is Not words plus images, but rather, words and images that need each other, and blend so perfectly as to produce a third note, a harmonic in our minds, which is the book itself.

But novels are a way of letting my words go further, climb higher, take greater risks. My first novel, The World Before This One, was built entirely of Seneca (Iroquois) legends from where I live, Rochester, NY, but becomes a story about all of us, and about stories, and how they change our lives. Birdwing, my newest, is about our differences and the discovery that that very things that may make us feel most different and alone, can, in the end, become the sources of our greatest strength and healing. It's a book I'm very excited about. It is mythic and heroic and brings folklore alive in an original way, so that it can speak to us, and function in our lives today. Starting in January my first serialized sci-fi novel, Future Times Past: What the Eagles Knew, will appear in newspapers around the country.

Stories entertain, but they also teach. They extend wisdom. Writing and telling tales is, to me, the most interesting, and the greatest, of all adventures.

For information on all of Rafe's books, as well as for bio, articles, interviews, and contact info go to