The Hermit Thrush Sings by Susan Butler

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For a moment Leora's hand froze, exposed, the delicate webbing between her fingers translucent as a fish's fin, luminous against the morning sun. "If you go out there, the birmbas will eat you up and spit out your bones," Tanette taunted. "And besides," she added in her tattletale voice, "it is forbidden." Leora's webbed hand has always marked her as different. Orphaned and outcast in her stepmother's household, she keeps the hand hidden for fear of being sent to the Institute along with other "defectives." Her hand sets her apart, but it also allows her to draw pictures with haunting power. When Leora peers past the locked gates of her village, she feels her life might be different. But it isn't until she dares to free a baby birmba, a creature she's been taught to fear, that her life begins to change. For it is this act of kindness that sets in motion an unforgettable adventure, a quest for family and belonging, that takes Leora into the forbidden Outside.

About Susan Butler

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Butler teaches photography at Pine Manor Junior College outside Boston.
Published March 15, 1999 by DK CHILDREN. 278 pages
Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Children's Books, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Born with a webbed left hand and the ability to see the future, young Leora breaks away from her village and cruel stepfamily, taking a captured baby “birmba” (a mutant bear-ape) back to its mother, finding temporary shelter in a settlement of serape-wearing descendants of migrant workers, then g...

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Publishers Weekly

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Leora knows that something greater exists beyond the locked gates of the village, but stories of her father and sister's deaths by the dreaded birmbas, a hybrid species of bear and ape that lives outside the village walls, keep her from exploring.

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