I used to read Sharon Creech’s Chasing Redbird EVERY YEAR for a really long time. Every time I picked it up, it seemed like a new story, one that I hadn’t ever read before, even though I knew that just around Spring every year I’d start itching to read it again. And Chasing Redbird is a companion novel to Walk Two Moons, where characters from one book leech into the world of the next.
Chasing Redbird is about Zinny Taylor, one of a “slew of brothers and sisters” living on a farm with her parents in Bybanks, Kentucky. They live next door to their Uncle Nate and Aunt Jessie, “the two houses yoked together like one.” Zinny describes her house as a place that she can get lost in, and forget who she is, and crossing over to the other house takes her to the “Quiet Zone,” where she can rediscover her identity.
When Zinny finds an overgrown trail behind her house, she decides to clear it stone by stone, even after finding out that it is twenty miles long. The path becomes an obsession, and a way to deal with her Aunt Jessie’s sudden death, one that Zinny feels is her fault. Although most of the novel is set during the summer that Zinny tackles the trail, flashbacks explain her relationship with her aunt, and the family mysteries that are still left to be unraveled. And then there’s Jake Boone, who’s a lot different than Zinny remembers (the last time she saw him, he was “as skinny as six o’clock”).
One thing that I love about this book is how quick Creech sets up Bybanks and the Taylor family and old trail at the back of the house. There is a feeling about the book that is instantly transferred within the first few pages, and it’s immediate and instant. The place where the novel starts is much different from where it goes – from a kitchen to a trail in the middle of the woods – and Creech eases the reader, guiding them along the same path.
Like Zinny says, “These were trivial things my find focused on, and I knew it, but they kept me from thinking about the bigger things that were lurking behind this clutter. I felt that if I didn’t keep busy, a million, million scenes were going to burst out of my head all at once. Part of me was curious to see what was in there, but I wanted to see them slowly, one at a time.” Creech does just that for her reader, keeping those “million, million scenes” just in the background, slowly coming into focus.