With Two She Flew: enchanting Catholic children’s story

Author: Catherine Bodega

Publisher: Park End Books

Age Range: 7 and up – older students can engage with this story too.

This little book was such a surprise. It is a lyrical and beautiful story about a young girl who helps hide away three refugee children who are threatened with deportation. The most interesting and unique aspect of this story is that it is written from the point of view of an autistic girl.  As a reader, I was drawn into the worldview of a girl who sees Angels with wings of fire and listens to the wise words of Saints as they speak to her from the icons in her church.

Park End Books was established by Summer Kinard who is autistic and specializes in resources for families with autistic children and writes stories with autistic characters. Daisy, the main character of With Two She Flew, has experiences that are portrayed with insight and care by the author. At times there is a whimsical quality to the descriptions that made me smile, such as when Daisy wakes in the morning and waves through her bedroom window at the Angels and Stylite Saints that are sitting in the tree in her yard. The childlike and innocent quality of Daisy’s experiences are extremely well portrayed.

Initially, I could not understand what country the story is set in – it seems the women speak Spanish, but it felt like America – the refugees are Russian.  There is also a sense that governmental forces want to send these three refugee children away despite their legal right to remain. After my initial confusion, I soon settled into the story and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The main focus is Daisy and how she perceives her world.  She understands more than people realize, and when she finds three girls hiding away in a ‘secret room’ at church, she understands that she has to help them.  As readers, we follow Daisy’s efforts to help the girls as she overhears snippets of conversations from the adults around her and tries to make sense of it all.

Author Catherine Bodega makes a clear point in this book about “disability” – Daisy’s mother explains that Daisy is special – she has “nous”.  Daisy seems to inhabit a place in between the spiritual and material worlds. In this excerpt, Daisy regards a large stained-glass window at the top of the stairs.

“She stood on the stairs and let the red and blue and golden light play over her eyelids as she slowly turned her head from side to side. The colours were like the sheltering wings that kept her safe. They were a glory that could touch her face and God’s face at once…

‘What are you doing?’ asked a small voice near her head…

‘I’m glorying in the light,’ Daisy said.”

It turns out that one of the refugee girls is autistic like Daisy – she has “inside eyes” and “talks of things of the heart”, according to her sister. Daisy bonds instantly with her new little friend and decides that she must help these girls in need.

“I don’t know how to say normal things either,” Daisy said…

Daisy’s family, particularly her mother, are presented as loving and caring – managing Daisy’s sometimes ‘strange’ behaviour with understanding.  To calm down, Daisy has a special ‘seed sorting’ book.  Each of her little seeds is representative of an emotion, and she can place them behind a picture of Jesus on the cross so he can carry them for her, or she can place them in Mother Mary’s flowing veil for safekeeping. The picture of Mother Mary is described as the “theotokos”.  This is a story about a devoted orthodox Catholic family that is immersed in the life of their faith, church and community.

Daisy responds to the icons and holy rituals of her orthodox church with unquestioning faith.  The mystical and spiritual are as real to Daisy as the trees and people around her. Her ‘nous’ allows her to see the attentive Angels that flutter about us, responding with joy, excitement or sorrow to our everyday human situations. Daisy explains:

“It’s about the wings of the seraphim. With two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.”

I highly recommend this book in spite of (or maybe because of) the fact that it is unusual and unique. Some of the text might need a little explaining to children, but it is worth persevering with this rich and beautiful book.  This is a very insightful and thought-provoking story about how we respond to disability, especially autism.  Children will relate to it. It is a nicely produced, small sized book with bird tracks drawn around each page.  Sketches of birds also grace the beginnings of each chapter. My heart sang several times – the prose so beautifully captures the uplifting quality of mystical and spiritual experiences.

You can purchase With Two She Flew HERE

Homeschool and Teacher Ideas

What a wonderful story to use to talk with and educate your children about autism, and ‘disability’ in general.

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