The Theory of Hummingbirds cover

By Michelle Kadarusman

The Theory of Hummingbirds

From Governor General’s Literary Award finalist Michelle Kadarusman. A moving novel for middle-grade readers that is not about overcoming disability, but rather becoming one’s truest self

“Hummingbirds and angels don’t need two good feet. They have wings.” That’s what Alba’s mother always says. Of course, Alba doesn’t have wings or two good feet: she has Cleo. Cleo is the name Alba has given to her left foot, which was born twisted in the wrong direction. When she points this out, though, her mother just smiles like the world has some surprise in store she doesn’t know about yet.

Well, Alba has her own surprise planned. After many surgeries and one final cast, Cleo is almost ready to meet the world straight on—just in time to run in the school cross-country race. Unfortunately, Alba’s best friend Levi thinks there’s no way she can pull it off. And she thinks there’s no way he’s right about the school librarian hiding a wormhole in her office. Tempers flare. Sharp words fly faster than hummingbirds. And soon it looks like both friends will be stuck proving their theories on their own.

The Theory of Hummingbirds is now available in a paperback edition with French flaps and a brand-new cover!

Available In


Ages 8-12
ISBN: 978-1-77278-027-7
List Price: $17.95 CAD / $9.95 USD
Trim Size: 5.50 x 7.50 inches / 13.97 x 19.05cm
Pages: 160

Distributed in Canada by University of Toronto Press

Distributed in the U.S. by Ingram Publisher Services

Carton Quantity: 36

Not yet available

Paperback / softback

Ages 8-12
ISBN: 978-1-77278-115-1
List Price: $14.95 CAD / $12.95 USD
Paperback / softback
Trim Size: 5.50 x 7.50 inches / 13.97 x 19.05cm
Pages: 160

Distributed in Canada by University of Toronto Press

Distributed in the U.S. by Ingram Publisher Services

Carton Quantity: 64

About this book

Awards and Honours

  • 2019 OLA Forest of Reading Silver Birch Express Award nominee (Short-listed) (Canada)
  • 2019 MYRCA Sundogs Award (Short-listed) (Canada)
  • 2018 SYRCA Diamond Willow Award (Short-listed) (Canada)
  • 2018 CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens Starred Selection (Commended) (Canada)



Praise for The Theory of Hummingbirds

2019 OLA Forest of Reading Silver Birch Express Award nominee

2019 MYRCA Sundogs Award nominee

2018 SYRCA Diamond Willow Award shortlist

2018 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Best Books for Kids & Teens Starred Selection

“Fascinating hummingbird facts flit throughout this contemporary realistic story and a glossary helps readers know more about the birds….Kadarusman’s writing has a light touch, and the story will resonate with a wide audience. VERDICT Readers learn that a group of hummingbirds is called a ‘charm’ – and are sure to be charmed by this heartfelt tale.”—School Library Journal

“[Alba’s] goals occur in small steps, easing her into the difference between her dream and the reality without diminishing her accomplishments. Alba’s relationship with her single mother is touching…Alba’s narration is dotted with hummingbird facts, which Kadarusman – who had a club foot herself – explains in a glossary. A quick, sweet read.”—Kirkus Reviews

“We rated this book: [5/5 stars]…Author Michelle Kadarusman has written a gentle but powerful story of dealing with differences and problems in friendships within a coming-of-age story. The writing is lyrical, the characters believable and well-rounded, and the metaphor of Alba as a hummingbird is heartbreakingly perfect.”—Manhattan Book Review

“This is a great story about doing what one can and not always comparing oneself with others. I found this a satisfying read which could stimulate some interesting discussion about limitations and friendship.”—Resource Links Magazine

“Alba’s perspective here is delightfully authentic….Indeed, it is [the hummingbird facts] that will keep readers intrigued over and above the more common theme of friendship that binds this story, elevating this novel to a rich and thought-provoking read. A glossary of Alba’s Hummingbird Facts appears at the end of the book….In a couple of places, aspects of the story make for excellent critical literacy discussions….Highly Recommended.”—CM Magazine

“Michelle Kadarusman skilfully uses emotional honesty to capture the turmoil of not fitting in and the hard journey to acceptance in terms children can easily understand….Alba’s endearing story is sure to change readers…”—Canadian Children’s Book News

The Theory of Hummingbirds is a gentle, hopeful, and wholly innocent portrayal of a sixth-grade girl dealing with being different….Alba uses several coping techniques to deal with her physical challenges. She is deeply invested in hummingbirds and sees them as a metaphor for her own life. ‘Hummingbirds don’t sit around moaning about their tiny feet and the fact that they can’t walk,’ she says. Alba calls her clubfood Cleo, viewing it with compassion and kindness rather than resentment and self-pity. Support comes from her best friend Levi, who spends recess indoors with her because of his serious asthma….In the mode of Jeanne Birdsall and Natalie Lloyd, Kadarusman makes some narrative choices that favour poeticism and poignancy over realism….The negativity is fleeting and the trajectory of Alba’s journey is onward and upward.”—Quill & Quire

“Rating: 5…A glossary of hummingbird facts and an author’s note add dimension to the story. This is a sweet, gentle novel about friendship.”—Youth Services Book Review

“[A] powerful and captivating story about differences and abilities…emotionally honest and filled with heart.”—Children’s Books Heal

“In this book for a middle-grade audience, the reader readily identifies with Alba’s efforts.”—Winnipeg Free Press

The Theory of Hummingbirds is Michelle Kadarusman’s first middle-grade novel and she’s made it reader friendly in more than just vocabulary and content. Her characters are both sensitive and gritty, as the need requires, and neither goody-goody nor reprehensible. In other words, they are real children with strengths and challenges. Because she underwent a series of surgical procedures to correct her own congenital talipes equinovarus, Michelle Kadarusman writes from experience. Hence Alba’s determination and drive for normalcy is written with authenticity and reads the same.”—CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Alba and Levi seem like great characters and true friends – brought together by their differences from their classmates…I particularly love the lesson – and the way it’s told – about understanding your differences, embracing them and doing what you can to make life as you want it.”—BookTime


Additional Resources


Teaching Guide

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