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Bird Hardcover – September 9, 2004

9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8–An open-ended, interconnected narrative in three voices. Bird, 13, has run away from Cleveland to rural Alabama, trying to find her stepfather, Cecil, and bring him home. Ethan, who turns out to be Cecil's nephew, is adjusting to the freedom that a heart transplant affords him. Jay is grieving for his brother, whose death provided the necessary heart. Bird hides out in a shed on Ethan's family's farm, convinced that Cecil will come because she'd seen Ethan in the man's photographs. She soon gets lonely. Conveniently, Ethan, who has been socially isolated by his illness, is anxious to befriend her. Jay knows about Ethan, but cannot bring himself to approach the younger boy. Persuaded by his best friend to "borrow" an elderly neighbor's car, Jay winds up under house arrest, but sneaks out and encounters Bird himself. The owner of the stolen car, Mrs. Pritchard, offers Bird refuge at her house, providing her comfort through good food and a patient, nonjudgmental ear. Johnson reveals the inner thoughts of these characters, as they move around one another, occasionally touching, but preoccupied with their individual problems. Readers see how small kindnesses can ease the grip of grief and how large gestures–the literal giving of a heart–can redound to the giver's credit. Much is left unresolved by the conclusion of the book, but the many truths about human emotion and interaction are exposed for readers' examination.–Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 6-10. "I thought it was enough that I had to lose two fathers before I'm even a teenager." At 13, Bird runs south from Ohio, searching for the stepfather that left her family. Ethan, a boy with a fragile heart, knows Bird is hiding on his family farm, but he doesn't know why. Ethan's neighbor Jay is still in shock over the recent death of his beloved younger brother. Alternating between these three young voices, Johnson tells a poignant, lyrical story about children struggling to overcome nearly irreparable heartbreak. Some of the connections between characters seem stretched, particularly the links made through the extraordinary kindness of aging Mrs. Pritchard, who knows just what to ask and when. But Johnson writes with a poet's knowledge of rhythm and knows how to use the space between words; the disconnect between what the boys think and what they say is especially well done. Johnson also creates a visceral sense of each character's search for love and connection, particularly Bird's deep loneliness and her longing for parents who aren't there. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 4 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 710L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Dial; First Edition edition (September 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803728476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803728479
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,908,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Angela Johnson is the author of the Coretta Scott King Honor picture book When I Am Old with You; as well as A Sweet Smell of Roses, illustrated by Eric Velasquez; Just Like Josh Gibson, illustrated by Beth Peck; and I Dream of Trains, which was also illustrated by Loren Long. She has won three Coretta Scott King Awards, one each for her novels Heaven, Toning the Sweep, and The First Part Last. In recognition of her outstanding talent, Angela was named a 2003 MacArthur Fellow. She lives in Kent, Ohio.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By N. S. VINE VOICE on October 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"People struggle, people fight

For the simple pleasures in their lives

The trouble comes from everywhere

It's a little more than you can bear

I know that it will hurt

I know it will break your heart the way things are

And the way they've been

And the way they've always been"

--Natalie Merchant

BIRD is an exquisitely crafted tale, expressed in the trio of young voices through which Angela Johnson explores matters of the heart--both metaphorically and literally.

"And I wonder what the farmhouse people would do if I just walked up to them and said, 'Hey.' "

Thirteen-year-old Bird is the first of those narrators. Brokenhearted, she has run away from her home in Ohio in hopes of retrieving her departed stepfather, Cecil.

"Ethan holds his chest when he talks and Jay talks like his heart is in his hands."

Ethan and Jay provide the story's two other voices. After having taken a bus to Alabama, Bird has found shelter in the old shed outside of Ethan's home.

"Even in this little town I don't think they know each other."

Ethan had almost died. But the death of a boy in his town gave Ethan a new lease on life. That boy who died was Jay's brother, Derek.

But why has Bird chosen to come here?

"I miss my mom.

"I even miss the people here that I can see every day if I want.

'Cause they aren't mine. All these people going in and out of their houses in this place I'm gonna leave anytime--they don't belong to me.

"I'm borrowing them until I get what I came for.

"Hope it's not wrong to borrow them. It doesn't mean I don't like them or care about them.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By KidsReads on December 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Meet Bird, a thirteen-year old girl who ran away from her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. She's very, very upset. Just when she thought her family was solid, her stepfather Cecil abandons her and her mother. Bird is determined to get him back. That's why she's in Acorn, Alabama. She misses her mother, her bedroom, food, and being able to take a shower. Bird is hiding out behind a nice family's farmhouse, watching and waiting.

Meet Ethan, a boy who lives in the farmhouse. He sees Bird in her hiding spot but doesn't tell his parents. Instead, he is excited to have a friend. He helps Bird by giving her meals, clothes and blankets. Ethan used to be very sick and had to get a new heart. Little do Ethan and Bird know that they have a lot in common.

Meet Jay, a boy in town. He is still numb from the death of his younger brother Derek. Bird and Jay meet each other on a roadside. Their sadness instantly connects them. Bird has made another friend.

Angela Johnson, three-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, proves once again her amazing storytelling abilities. BIRD is told from the points of view of Bird, Ethan and Jay. Through their connections, and what happens to each of them, a story tenderly unfolds. Johnson has a beautiful way with words that wrap around the readers' emotions and make us care deeply for the characters.

--- Reviewed by Kristi Olson (
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By PageTurner on March 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
Three different types of broken hearts interact in this very moving novel. Told from the individual perpectives of Ethan, a young boy who's just getting used to his new life after a heart transplant; Jay, a boy who's greiving after the death of his brother from a brain aneurism; and Bird, a runaway girl searching for the one person she thinks will make her family complete, the novel winds its way into our hearts with subtle touches and astonishing insight.

I read BIRD when my 12 year old daughter was about to write a book review of it for school. She is a 'book-devourer' and I was surprised when she said she didn't like the book and didn't know how to write a review of a book she disliked. She complained about the three separate narrative voices, and said they kept her from feeling that the story was a whole picture. She didn't seem to be able to make significant connections across the three story strands. I read it to figure out what her problem was.

As an adult reader, I was awed by the author's ability to delicately link the stories and, through deceptively simple prose, use Bird as an emotional catalyst, while also bringing Bird to her own epiphany. But I can see that the book's form and quiet style could be opaque for some readers in its intended age group. I found that a good discussion about the book changed the way my daughter viewed it, and led her to discover elements in it she'd missed the first time herself.

This would be a terrific book club book for moms and kids to read together, or for serious class discussions; I do think that exchange with an adult who's read it will enhance the experience for the pre-teen reader.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Each Angela Johnson book gets harder and harder to review. When Ms. Johnson produces yet another slim title about a kid dealing with an extraordinary yet everyday problem, I shiver. Not because Ms. Johnson is a bad writer, mind you. Just a funny one. You can't pin down an Angela Johnson book with a single sentence. You can't explain what it is that she's doing with her writing without reaching into the complicated issues that she's discussing. Her first few books were fairly easy to understand. Nowadays they're all published as perfect little entities that exist entirely in their own world with or without your participation in them. "Bird", one of the most recent, is more difficult to love than Ms. Johnson's crowd pleasers like "First Part Last". Telling three different stories from three different perspectives, Johnson spreads herself a little too thin in her tale of a girl looking for a father-figure, a boy learning to use his new heart, and another boy finding a way to come to terms with his brother's death. Chipper stuff.

Bird loved her stepfather Cecil. He wasn't a particularly reliable man and he wasn't always a nice man, but he was the only daddy Bird had ever known. Now he's taken off in the middle of the night without a word and the girl can't take it. Pooling her resources, she heads down South to find Cecil and convince him to return home with her in the North. She camps out in an old abandoned shed near a cheery family's farmhouse and survives by eating their leftover breakfasts and bathing in their beautiful white bathtub. The family includes Ethan, a kid who until recently was confined to a hospital bed. He's just been given a new heart and in Bird he sees someone who can definitely be his first friend. Trouble is, his heart came from Jay's brother.
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