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May Bird #1

May Bird and the Ever After

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Most people aren't very comfortable in the woods, but the woods of Briery Swamp fit May Bird like a fuzzy mitten. There, she is safe from school and the taunts and teases of kids who don't understand her. Hidden in the trees, May is a warrior princess, and her cat, Somber Kitty, is her brave guardian.

Then May falls into the lake.

When she crawls out, May finds herself in a world that most certainly does not feel like a fuzzy mitten. In fact it is a place few living people have ever seen. Here, towns glow blue beneath zipping stars and the people -- people? -- walk through walls. Here the Book of the Dead holds the answers to everything in the universe. And here, if May is discovered, the horrifyingly evil Bo Cleevil will turn her into nothing.

May Bird must get out.


Within these pages, Jodi Lynn Anderson shares with us the beginning of May Bird's daring journey into the Ever After, a haunting place where true friends -- and one terrible foe -- await her on every corner.

352 pages, Paperback

First published August 30, 2005

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About the author

Jodi Lynn Anderson

38 books1,698 followers
I write strange and mythical stories about young people.

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5 stars
3,162 (41%)
4 stars
2,217 (29%)
3 stars
1,452 (19%)
2 stars
495 (6%)
1 star
234 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 556 reviews
Profile Image for Caitlyn.
90 reviews3 followers
January 11, 2022
My favorite series as a child. I wasn't a little girl that fantasizes about ponies and rainbows, I enjoyed the dark stuff. This was perfectly dark enough for the age I was, and fulfilled my wishes of a dark, but beautiful other world. Plus, May was pretty relatable.
Profile Image for Amanda.
400 reviews29 followers
May 20, 2012
May Bird and the Ever After, the first book in the Ever After trilogy, tells the tale of a 10-year-old girl named May, her kitty named Somber Cat and the horrifying adventures they have in Ever After, the world of the dead.

This was a truly fantastic tale of adventure and friendship. I've read many children's books and May Bird and the Ever After is most definitely one of the most imaginative books I have read. The author created an entirely unique and amazing world, one that was both fascinating and terrifying.

According to Amazon this book is meant for grades 5-8 and while reading this book I kept thinking, "there is no way a little 5th grader can read this and not get scared." The book is about ghosts and other surprisingly dark and eerie beings, so I can see a kid being creeped out by the story. However, that doesn't mean I don't think it's a great book for children. It does in fact tell a wonderful tale of self discovery, personal growth and true friendship. Will some of the darker moments give a few kids nightmares - possibly, but it's still an incredible book that ends on a somewhat positive note.

I loved this book and fully plan on buying the rest in the series. It was imaginative, fast-paced and wonderfully eerie. It may not be a great book for all children, but I know that I would have loved this book when I was in 5th grade, but then 90% of the books I read back then were horror. It really depends on kid I suppose.
Profile Image for Kendra.
6 reviews4 followers
October 13, 2014

May Bird and the Ever After is one of the greatest books I've ever read. I'll try not to let my personal bias get in the way in this review, but I just want to say that this--and the rest of the trilogy--was one of the most inspirational and impactful books I've ever read in my entire life.

May Bird is a 5th grade girl, and like most protagonists, is disliked by everyone at school. The only one she can really call her friend is her cat, Somber Kitty, who is--of course, a cat, so he can't really show much character. One day, after she falls into a lake, she starts to see ghosts (when I came to these parts, I could not sleep because I found it very creepy). One night, she gets fed up with the ghosts, and (almost) willingly throws herself into the lake. When she resurfaces, she finds herself in the land of the Dead: the Ever After. However, she isn't dead, she's alive! Later, she finds out that "Live Ones" as they're called, are being hunted by the leader of the land, Bo Cleevil for reasons that I will not explain. May Bird has to get out of the Ever After before she gets sucked into nothingness...

The general idea of the book is not entirely original (going into the afterlife), as it has been used in many other books. And the idea that the protagonist has to kill the evil leader of the world who's threatening to kill everything is also unoriginal. However, it's the way that the author executes and combines these ideas that makes this book so enjoyable. There are rarely any moments when the plot is dragging on. There is almost always something that keeps the reader at bay, wanting to keep turning the pages until Mom says that it's time for bed. However, there were some parts where the author uses some humor that, while funny, seem out of place.

The characters, however, weren't entirely likable. Like mentioned a few paragraphs ago, May is like lots of other book protagonists: is disliked, practically rejected by society, and isn't really interested in making new friends. However, she is very tomboyish, and has a great imagination, always playing in the woods and pretending to be a "Warrior Princess", and collects little rocks that to anyone else are just worthless rocks. So she is likable in some aspects. Not to mention how she undergoes some character development throughout the book. Ironically, the rest of the supporting characters are more likable than May, seeing as they actually have a set personality.

Overall, I absolutely, positively love this book. I recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy, of all ages (discarding the fact that it's a children's book). As I mentioned before, this is one of my favorite books that I've read.
Profile Image for Ellen.
30 reviews44 followers
June 24, 2012
3.5. It was cute. :) Wait- am I allowed to call creepy books cute? It was spooky, but in a good way. Really fun. (Plus, the main character's name is May ELLEN Bird. Enough said. XD)
Profile Image for Jillian.
203 reviews
October 28, 2021
Read this aloud with my kids and they loved it. It was harder to get through as a read aloud because it actually moves quite slowly and is very wordy in some of the descriptions. But still, love this book. What stood out to me most this time was May’s insecurities and the way she keeps trying even though she’s scared and doubts herself. I think that’s a great component of the story and I just love her journey to realize she really is a warrior. “You are that girl.”

I love this series; it’s one of my all time favorites. It’s such a unique adventure, and I love the themes of friendship, love, and becoming. Also, Somber Kitty is just the best.
Profile Image for Anna.
39 reviews
August 6, 2022
May Bird is that bitch, childhood fav, I’m in a fall mindset now
Profile Image for Hannah Belyea.
2,085 reviews34 followers
October 10, 2020
May has never fit in with the rest of her classmates, and she's worried moving to a new school isn't the answer her mother is looking for - but when she ends up sucked into the world of the dead, it will take a bravery she thought she had lost long ago to stay alive. Anderson offers young readers a tale of mystery and peril that, though scrambled in plot and characters, keeps a decent pace and oddball atmosphere. Can May prove to herself that she has what it takes to survive, or will she end up being just another wandering spirit?
Profile Image for Barb Middleton.
1,754 reviews126 followers
August 29, 2020
May Bird goes on a quest to get home after landing accidentally in the land of the dead. This is a ghost story and fantasy mix. May Bird is an outsider at school and learns to make friends and believe in herself as she goes on the quest. The end is a “to be continued” type.
Profile Image for Ronda.
1,543 reviews40 followers
February 21, 2009
Meet 10-year-old May Bird, who lives with her mother and a hairless rex cat named Somber Kitty at the edge of a woods in a place called Briery Swamp. She spends much of her time with her cat in the woods, dreaming of being a warrior princess or in her room drawing pictures of strange creatures. She's not like the other kids in her class, who think she's just plain weird. May Bird's mother, concerned and coming to her wits' end with May's "strange" behavior, is talking about sending her away to a boarding school in New York. Even though May Bird has reason to be scared now that she's started seeing ghosts in the woods and in her home, she's more scared of leaving her beloved West Virginia woods. Things become stranger still when, in the ruins of an old post office, she finds a mysterious letter, postmarked from 50 years ago, but addressed to May Bird at her address. The letter leads her into a world that is even further away than New York where being different--being "a live one", might just be deadly for her--a world where the Bogeyman is real; where ghosts are afraid of "people like her." It is a complex story with many layers, some humorous (ghosts of thieves playing practical jokes on one another) and some frightening (ghosts having their souls sucked into nothingness by the evil Bo Cleevil). In this strange and frightening world, May learns that, just maybe, she isn't as alone as she thought she was, and she just might find that she's more of a warrior princess than she ever dreamt.

Some sources list this story as being at a reading level of Ages 9 and up, others at Grades 5 and up. Because of the complexity and possible fright factor for some, I would tend to agree with the latter. That said, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next as May Bird ventures through the land of the dead in an attempt to find answers, to find her way home, and to find herself. The series includes:

* May Bird and the Ever After (Book 1)

* May Bird Among the Stars (Book 2)

* May Bird: Warrior Princess (Book 3)
Profile Image for Ryan.
Author 1 book10 followers
January 27, 2010
Two stars looks like an awfully disappointed assessment, but take the rating for what it represents: "It was OK."

After an Alice in Wonderland-ish tumble through a watery portal, May Bird finds herself in the Ever After, a macabre world populated by ghosts and specters (the former never lived, the latter did, or maybe vice-versa). While trying to discover a way home to her mother, May learns that the ghost world is suffering under the tyrannical fist of a particularly bad bogey whose edicts and monsters are slowly but surely oppressing the land.

Boat, foot, and train travel by the recently departed evokes LucasArts' Grim Fandango, while the postmortem bureaucracy is reminiscent of Beetlejuice--not that the young adults at whom this book is aimed would know much of either.

There are clever moments, yes, and some inspired ideas: Black water from the Dead Sea immediately transports whomever it touches to a sub-land of ghouls and demons, so rogues arm themselves with squirt guns and water balloons full of the stuff.

But there is also some plot masked as frustrating dialog. For too long, May needlessly clings to the belief that her benevolent house ghost, a constantly finger-chewing Pumpkin, is a threat to her, despite him doing nothing to harm her and a few things to help her during the early stages of her journey. She also fails to ask the sorts of questions someone in her position should ask to characters who don't answer her in helpful ways. While Lewis Carrol's Caterpillar and Humpty Dumpty can get away with such obfuscation, here it feels more like a device deliberately employed to preserve a mystery or two and provide impetus for a quest.

Western celebrities apparently retain their status in death, too. Characters name drop Shakespeare and Houdini. Abraham Lincoln is referenced. Billy the Kid appears in a bar brawl. The appearances are cute, but feel mostly like the gags they're intended to be.
Profile Image for Cat.
146 reviews
July 22, 2022
What an original story! Loved the setting and the characters, Somber Kitty and Pumpkin especially 💕
Wish I could figure out why Bo Cleevil sounds so familiar though!
Profile Image for Andrew.
97 reviews8 followers
February 9, 2020
This is the second time I've read this book. (The first time was very long ago) Even though I remembered some detail of the book, I was still absorbed in the book urging myself to read on to find out what happens next.

The story starts with her seeing ghosts in her house, an ability you lose once you are at around age 3. It is extremely rare to regain the vision of ghosts and spirits, but it happened to May. I'm not clear on why she had the vision, as the author did not explain furthermore, so that left me confused walking into the book.

The biggest problem with the plot is that the start is extremely unrealistic. When she receives a mysterious note from a lady from "the ever after" who tells her to follow her instructions. She decides to follow the directions. Is she oblivious to the fact that she hasn't told anyone of authority, and she wants to follow this random letter from a lady who lives in the ever after? I don't think she realized how dangerous that sounds, as the place is not even on earth. Why would she follow it? If that isn't senseless enough for you, when she reaches the lake, she trips on a bear trap, another warning to probably stay away. Meh, whatever. She continues and stares at her reflection in the lake so intensely that she falls into the lake. As she tries to swim up, a force tries to pull her down into the lake, but she manages to barely escape. Finally, she runs away home, never to go to or even look at the lake anymore. That was a life-and-death situation she experienced and she got the memo now. The book is over. Something else happens. Then, a few nights later, she decides to explore the lake again. What?!?! The last time you came here, you almost drown because an invisible force almost dragged you down! HELLO? Use something in your head called a brain. This time, a seemingly beautiful lady pulls her down into the lake, where she is greeted by the ever after. Do you get why it is unrealistic now?

Besides that, the story doesn't have many flaws and I like how the story can transition into a trilogy.

I like how the author made Pumpkin greet and help her escape, as she has to conquer her fear of ghosts and her shock of still being alive. I can tell that at the start of the book, she is a bit dumb. (No offense) For example, when Pumpkin tells her to quickly run with him so they could escape the Bogey,
May still hasn't realized that Pumpkin is trying to help her and tells him to go away. Pumpkin tells her to walk through the door or else the Bogey would get her. As the loud dogs and the Bogey near, she asks, "What's coming?" Maybe if you were paying a bit attention then you would have heard that something called the Bogey is coming for you. She asks multiple questions before she enters the door, so she is still not safe. Even when the trees are falling in the woods and the dogs are getting louder and louder, she still asks,

"Why should I trust you?

Uhhh, I don't know, maybe because you can see the woods are being ripped apart and because some massive dogs are chasing you? Also maybe because the person who told you is not harmful, so you should trust them?

I would have liked Pumpkin to say, "Well, you can find out yourself what the Bogey can do but I am getting out of here. Adios Amigo!" Instead, the author settles with, "You have to." Honestly, I feel like the author should have changed the sentence to, "You have no choice" because then it can strengthen Pumpkins' argument that they have to get out of here or else they will die.

The rest of the book is good though, as it is very interesting and provides a story not many people have experienced. Something I noticed that was also a bit unrealistic was how she was barely fazed after she saw dead people, people cut in half, a bony hand protruding out a wall. I'm pretty sure many people would have freaked out or even fainted, but she barely has any reaction which I find hard to believe.

Something I felt like the author excelled in was adding a mini second narrative on Somber Kitty, May's pet cat. He gets separated when May gets sucked into the lake and he wants to find her. Over the course of the journey, the author adds random bits of the story of the cat, where he is and how he is trying to find May, I felt like the author did a good job incorporating that in the plot, and I like how the author lets Somber Kitty save the day as it is a bit ironic that the scary, massive, shuck hounds are scared of a normal cat.

I think it also creates the theme that everyone has weaknesses and strengths. Even though the shuck hounds have strengths in scaring people and killing them, they have a weakness of being afraid of cats. May shows her weaknesses when she doesn't use her head but she is gritty and courageous. Pumpkin shows his weaknesses because he is very shy and afraid, but he stands up for his friends when they really need him.

I am very excited to read the second and third books of the trilogy and I recommend this book to people who like Fantasy or Realistic Fiction as this is a mix of both. 4 stars.
Profile Image for Sylvia.
538 reviews46 followers
June 16, 2019
Full Review here

Even as an adult, I really relate to May's struggle to fit in and feel confident. I think most middle grade readers would enjoy this creepy, unique story about friendship, adventure, growth, and self-discovery.
Profile Image for Melissa Jacobson.
868 reviews134 followers
December 18, 2017
Actual Rating 4.5

I thoroughly enjoyed this middle grade read! The world was the perfect blend of whimsical and dingy and the character were quirky amd entertaining. This was such a delightful little story and I cannot wait to read the remaining two books in this trilogy!
Profile Image for Taejas Kudva.
20 reviews4 followers
July 5, 2009
The second Pirates of the Caribbean movie annoyed the heck out of me because it and the third should have just been one movie. Well, and I didn't realize it was going to be a cliffhanger ending.

The first May Bird bok falls into the same category. Now, it didn't leave me with a tremendous headache like the second Pirates movie did, but the book didn't finish so much as it ended. It seemed like the end of a chapter, not the end of a story, and it is very possible to have great episodic books where the story arc keeps going but the plot of that book comes to a close: check out Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series fot a great example.

I also felt like the book really changed tones when part II began after May arrived in the Ever After. The beginning sets up so many great conflicts, and all of them are abandoned. I suppose the beginning of the book was heading in a more light hearted, pun filled, Pictures of Hollis Woods sort of direction, and swapped it suddenly for The Nightmare Before Christmas. It wasn't that you didn't see it coming, given the cover and the prologue, but it seems sort of a lost opportunity.

What May Bird is is pleasantly imaginative and filled with great twists of phrase or jokes that aren't explained but left there like little humor landmines. The Ever After is an interesting, carefully non-partisan after life filled with all sorts of Tim Burton dangers for a Live One to run in to. Anderson is good about providing Pixar type jokes that work on both a kid's and a (childish) adult's level. For instance May finds a book called, What to Expect When You're Expecting to be Executed... come on, comedy gold!

The series is going to be that typical kids' formula: child with low self esteem goes into the magical world, finds their backbone, and comes back flush with triumph able to face the challenges of real life. But there's a reason this formula is still around. It works, and it's fun. It's a solid adventure book with a female protagonist that leaves room to grow as the series progresses, and pleasantly shows that you can have an adventure that isn't rooted solely in action.
Profile Image for Kogiopsis.
772 reviews1,497 followers
February 17, 2016
This book has been on my to-read list for so long that I've forgotten why it was there, but that's alright: it turned out to be charmingly creepy, and not nearly as juvenile as I'd expected.

In a lot of ways, this is similar to Catherine Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, in that both are stories about young girls sucked into dangerous magical realms. May Bird finds herself in the afterlife, which has its own complicated social structure and politics, but all she wants is to get back home. There's an interesting thing going on here with the way Anderson shows her as alienated on Earth (from everyone, including her mother) and her slow building of bonds with other characters in the Other After. In the way of many tales set at this point in a character's life, the plot seems to be partly a way to address and overcome May's insecurities.

The book's biggest flaw is its pacing. It takes quite a while for May to actually wind up in the Ever After, and once she's there she makes a choice that the plot... basically can't allow her to succeed in. While the climax of the book still has plenty of tension to its name, the journey to reach it was somewhat frustrating, as the outcome is basically a given in light of other plot elements. That's... very vague, but the takeaway is that the middle of this book dragged quite a lot.

Obligatory cat mention - the cat in this book is excellent, and honestly the tensest part of the narrative for me was waiting for May and Somber Kitty's reunion. When it happened, it was not only properly emotional, but also a very tidy use of a Chekov's Gun, so great by several different qualifications.

I'm not into the story enough to track down the sequels, but if you want a book for a creative and slightly morbid teenager/preteen, give this a shot.
Profile Image for Sandy.
1,005 reviews10 followers
December 30, 2008
After getting a request for this book from a kid who has proven to have excellent taste (she's a regular at the library, and we've done a lot of book talking!), I finally picked up May Bird and the Ever After by Jodi Lynn Anderson. I was kind of impressed with the book. May is a friendless 10-year-old girl who has a vivid imagination...and the threat of being sent to boarding school looming over her shoulder. One day while walking in the woods near her home, she falls into a lake and is sucked into the "Ever After," home of ghosts, specters, and ghouls. May finds herself instantly hunted by Bo Clevil, who has outlawed the living from remaining in the Ever After. Teamed up with Pumpkin (the ghost who has haunted May's house for years) and trailed by May's pet Somber Kitty, the two set out to find the Book of the Dead, which will hopefully tell May how she can return home.

This engaging story is perhaps a little slow to set up, but May's adventures in Ever After are exciting and fraught with danger. The characters that May meets up with along the way are diverse and well-drawn, each with their own distinct and endearing personalities. There are lots of interesting dead spirits to be found here, but is not a scary book. It would, however, be a good tone-setting for those looking to get into the Halloween spirit but who don't necessarily want to have their pants scared off.
Profile Image for Karla.
435 reviews4 followers
April 1, 2008
Hmmmmm...took me a while to get into it. But now I can't wait to read the next one. Reminds me of The Wizard of Oz. May Bird and her cat Somber Kitty (as opposed to Toto the dog) get trapped in a fantastic world, the world of the dead, where she makes lots of oddball friends as she tries to get back home to her mother. This story is quirky and funny in places, but also a scary...of course, so was the Wicked Witch of the West - here it is the Bogeyman, who hunts May down with dogs instead of flying monkeys. Her main sidekick is a house spirit named Pumpkin (reminiscent of the scarecrow) who has a pumpkin head and a penchant for strange costumes. I really enjoyed it once I got past the initial slowness and into the action. May turns out to be very brave and her hairless kitty, too. I gave it four stars rather than five only because it took me so long to get into it.
Profile Image for Kailey (Luminous Libro).
3,061 reviews453 followers
April 2, 2016
In this book May Bird is whisked off to the land of the dead, called Ever After, and adventures her way across the land, searching for a way home. She makes some ghostly friends, and some enemies, in her quest to find the Book of the Dead which holds the answers to every question.

The writing is excellent, and there are many good characters. I just don't like ghost stories. All the Halloween-style world building was not to my taste, but I think other people would enjoy that kind of setting.

The story takes a little while to finally get going, and then I really liked it! I loved May's character. She is spunky and weird and brave! The people she meets are interesting and crazy and hilarious. So many wild characters!
Profile Image for Kendall Hines.
6 reviews4 followers
July 21, 2020
May Bird was a childhood book I started to read but never finished. Now a adult I finally finished it. May bird the young main character is a young girl who gets sucked into the afterlife, where she meets different ghosts and monsters. I liked reading this book but at times grew bored of reading it. The more closer to the end the more invested I got with the characters and possible outcomes of their ending. Sense this is a series you don't get all the answers you have answered yet. May bird in my opinion is a great book for young readers to read though, teaching different lessons about friendships and finding yourself.
Hopefully I can find the second book in my local bookstore to read!
Also somber kitty rocks!
April 4, 2009
I read this for 5th grade Battle of the Books and wrote 25 questions for it. Considering that I don't really like high fantasy (which most of this is other than a brief introduction to May Bird before she tumbles into The Ever After), I must say I was intrigued with this book. It was certainly original and fast-paced with marvelously described characters both living and dead...not to mention Somber Kitty! I can see why my 5th grade girls like it (I'll try to get them to read Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos...reminds me of) and want to read the next 2 books in the series. But 1 book in this series is enough to give me a taste of it ...I think ;-)
Profile Image for Trina.
385 reviews
May 16, 2017
This was hard to plug through. While reading it aloud to my girls, I often found they weren't even paying attention because they were so bored with it. But we persevered and worked out way through it so that we could find out the ending to the great plot line set up at the beginning of the book; only to find it wasn't answered, and the book is a series. UGH! What a disappointment; it's drawn out too long for us....
19 reviews1 follower
February 17, 2009
I was excited to find a book that I was able to enjoy with my daughter. We read a couple chapters every night and quickly went on to finish "May Bird Among the Stars". Can't wait for the last one to be in paperback.
Profile Image for Mckenna.
12 reviews7 followers
April 14, 2009
A young outsider, May Bird is dragged into the underworld- no place for mortals, but with the help of her hairless cat, somber kitty, and an unexpected friend, can she get back home?
Profile Image for sam appelbaum.
24 reviews
March 15, 2012
VERY GOOD! i had to read it for a book club during school (bleh!) but ended up LOVING IT!!! READ
Profile Image for Tym.
880 reviews89 followers
February 25, 2015
While this story was a little up and down for me in the end I found myself caing deeply for Somber Kitty, May and Pumpkin. Well worth the read and I am on to the next book in the series.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 556 reviews

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