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Flying Tips for Flightless Birds by Kelly McCaughrain

Flying Tips for Flightless Birds

NewGen - YA Fiction   Reading Groups   
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In a Nutshell: It takes courage for the show to go on

Highs, lows, love and laughter - this big-hearted circus-set debut has it all. Siblings Finch and Birdie Franconi are high-flying trapeze artists in their family circus school. They’re fearless in flight, and also in fashion. Their no-nonsense attitude and endlessly inventive ensembles of bright blazers, tutus, paisley print, polka print and outlandish accessories certainly make them stand-out at school, and also attracts the attention of brainy new boy Hector. Reluctant at first, Finch agrees to teach seemingly hapless Hector circus skills, but when Birdie has an accident on the trapeze, his world begins to unravel. Finch feels fear for the first time, and it falls to Hector to show him that the show must go on.

Alongside the tension and turmoil around Birdie’s condition, and the radiant razzle-dazzle of the circus, there’s a magnificent (if rocky-roaded) romance, and many words of wisdom come courtesy of Birdie’s blog posts: “You can’t control everything. That’s where courage comes in; sometimes you have to just go for it”.

Complex questions are put under the spotlight as the main characters try to navigate their way in the world, wondering who they are, who they should be, how they fit in, and these big issues are all explored with clarity, humour and a whole of lot of heart beneath Franconi’s exhilarating Big Top. ~ Joanne Owen

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Lovereading teen/YA Reader Review Panel members were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can read their full reviews by clicking here.

  • Jenna Welch, age 13 - 'This book was pure magic and each new plot twist amazed me and took the story in a whole new and unexpected fabulous direction...absolutely amazing and I loved every word of it, McCaughrain is an absolute genius.'
  • Humaira Kauser, age 19 - 'This is definitely going to be one of the big YA books of 2018...I loved everything from the style of the writing and the format to the characters and locations. Makes me kind of want to join the circus.'
  • Jenny Duffy (children's bookseller) - 'Fans of contemporary YA with a focus on family and friendship (with a dash of romance) will love this story about being yourself, and learning to let people in to your life. A soaring debut.'
  • Sidney Greenslade, age 14 - 'Flying Tips For Flightless Birds was a fun and touching story with great characters, about friendships, learning who you are, and circus performances to make you gasp!'
  • Emily Kirby, age 13 - 'I would definitely recommend it...Flying Tips for Flightless Birds is a deeply touching book about friendship, romance and accepting who you is hard to juggle circus practice, friendship, love and family all at the same time!'
  • Maia Fuller, age 13 - 'I really enjoyed this amazing book by Kelly McCaughrain. I loved the friendships, the romance and the secrets all wrapped up in one book about circus and accepting who you are.'
  • Edel Waugh - 'This was a delightful story of a very unusual family that is full of love and close bonds and a truly unconventional upbringing...A fun filled story with a feel good ending.'
  • Ella O'Gorman, age 13 - 'An unusual multi-layered tale that's both funny and moving, set against the backdrop of a struggling circus school, run by Birdie and Finch Franconi's family.'


Flying Tips for Flightless Birds by Kelly McCaughrain

Witty and clever. This novel really does sparkle. Roddy DoyleFrom debut author Kelly McCaughrain comes a sweet and kooky romcom for fans of R. J. Palacio's Wonder, Sarah Crossan, and Susin Nielsen's We Are All Made of Molecules.

Twins Finch and Birdie Franconi are stars of the flying trapeze. But when Birdie suffers a terrifying accident, Finch must team up with the geeky new kid, Hector Hazzard, to form an all-boys double act and save the family circus school. Together they learn to walk the high-wire of teen life and juggle the demands of friends, family, first love and facing up to who they are - all served up with a dash of circus-showbiz magic.


Flying tips for Flightless Birds is a quirky and complex story, told with an elegant simplicity that hooks you from the first few pages. A gentle but gripping exploration of the highs and lows of being a young person, of love, friends and the relationship we have with ourselves and others. * The Book Bag *

About the Author

Kelly McCaughrain lives in Belfast, where she works with disabled students in further education, and has just completed a degree in English and Creative Writing at Queens University. She was shortlisted for the 2013 Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Prize. When she isn't writing she also works in a charity bookshop and takes long holidays in her 1967 classic campervan, Gerda. Flying Tips for Flightless Birds is her first novel.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st March 2018


Kelly McCaughrain

More books by Kelly McCaughrain
Author 'Like for Like'


Walker Books Ltd


384 pages
Interest Age: From 12 years


NewGen - YA Fiction
Reading Groups

Romance & relationships stories (Children's / Teenage)
Personal & social issues: sexuality & relationships (Children's / Teenage)
Humorous stories (Children's / Teenage)
Family & home stories (Children's / Teenage)
Personal & social issues: siblings (Children's / Teenage)



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