I've read another Nina Bawden this week, and I think I am starting to see where her success lies. It isn't necessarily in telling a gripping story (which is strange given how gripping her children's books are), but it is in providing compelling descriptions of family relationships and the problems that they can cause. This is illustrated perfectly by The birds on the trees, and summed up in this quote from the Independent that appears on Amazon.co.uk:
'Nina Bawden gets inside the skins of all her people and shows them as paradoxical, crotchety, adulterous, ambitious and completely human ... A beautifully sustained impression of the impossibility of family life' - The Independent
The birds of the trees is the story of what happens to a normal middle class family when their teenage son is expelled from school and seems to be taking drugs. They seek professional help, much to the concern of the boy's grandmother, and the book essentially describes how they deal with the crisis and how they deal with other's reactions. We also see that other families are not necessarily as perfect as they seem. Moreover, as in reality, there isn't always a tidy solution, and while the book remains inconclusive in some ways, this fits in with the way that Bawden makes the book believable.
Having just read the recent The Lost Child by Myerson, it was interesting to read a fictionalised account of a similar sort of story, and I would definitely recommend reading these books in tandem.
Just the one cover, which is the one I picked up from Green Metropolis.com (a great place to look for second-hand books BTW!)