April 10, 2011 at 9:07 am Leave a comment

Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney; published by Little, Brown & Co., New York; 2011.

Note: This review is based on an e-book ARC (advance reader copy) provided for free by the publisher.  The publication information is subject to change.  Expected release date: April 12, 2011.

As the images* and names indicate at the beginning of each chapter and sub-chapter, Bird in a Box is a story told from the perspectives of three 12 year olds: Hibernia “Bernie” Lee Tyson, Willie and Otis.  All three have suffered tremendous losses in their young lives.  They all have a few things in common: African-American heritage, Ms. Lila Weiss at the Mercy Home for Negro Orphans, and Joe Louis (The Brown Bomber).  Ms. Pinkney’s historical fiction gives us a glimpse of life for African-Americans during the Depression Era (1936-1937).

For me, one line from “Amazing Grace” kept repeating, almost an earworm, as I read: “I once was lost but now am found.”  Each soul in this book is searching for something, and as the back cover closed, I felt that they had found that something (or at least were on the path to making life better).  This is one uplifting snapshot of American history and will stay with me for a very long time.

Pinkney has succeeded in creating individual voices for the three main characters.  Using vernacular certainly put us in the minds of each.  Quoting real radio coverage of the Brown Bomber’s fights was also an important tool in setting the emotional and physical setting.  In the author’s note at the beginning of the book, the inspiration for the story is divulged; I believe the author has respected her family’s history and let us all sit at the table to hear the stories for ourselves.  In addition to the author’s note at the beginning, the book includes short biographies of each of the real people mentioned in the book.  A list of resources, in print and moving images, will help extend the story for many readers.

I would recommend this to upper elementary aged students (maybe as young as grade 3, definitely for grades 4-6).  Fans of the American Girl series should be encouraged to read this.  And reluctant boy readers will enjoy it from a sports-history perspective.  I would love to see this as a made-for-TV movie at the very least; there is so much heart and history to absorb!

*Final art was not available in the ARC I reviewed.  Any comments are based on the sketches included in the e-book.


Entry filed under: ARC or galley, Historical Fiction, Multicultural chapter book. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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Disclaimers: Per the FTC regulations, please note that sometimes books are received for review for free by publishers or authors. All books (ARCs, galleys, library or purchased) will be reviewed fairly; no special consideration is given to anything reviewed on this blog. In addition, I make every attempt to avoid spoilers. Sometimes they happen inadvertently or because they are important to defend a review; not all spoilers have been removed or fixed. This disclaimer is a general statement included as a warning to readers.

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