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Birdland Hardcover – October 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7-10-Haunted by the death of his older brother, 14-year-old New York City-native Jed spends his winter break filming a documentary of his East Village neighborhood. Following clues left behind in Zeke's poetry journal, he finds himself going deep into his brother's psyche. The painful memories and emotions that surface bring Jed face-to-face with the destitute, homeless girl mentioned in one of the poems. Jed's efforts to reach out to her, and the ensuing near tragedy, galvanize his grieving parents into action and into recognizing his needs. Mack's expressively visual prose interspersed with fragments of candid poetry realistically captures the anger and frustration of a boy coping with the loss of a sibling and the possible disintegration of his family. Colorful, well-drawn characters add to the story's painful sense of realism. And while some readers may find it hard to balance Birdland's sophisticated style with its young protagonist, others will be drawn into Jed's unique and spontaneous East Village world of skateboards, sidewalk musicians, and coffee houses.
Hillias J. Martin, New York Public Library
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 7-10. "True healing," Jed's English teacher declaims, "begins with imagination." But Jed, displaying that bedrock realism with which teens so often see through the idealistic preenings of adults, isn't quite buying it: "So what if you imagine something to be healed. It's still the same broken thing, isn't it?" The beauty of this rigorously unsentimental novel about a family in crisis is the way that Mack, even as she lets her characters' imaginations soar, keeps her story grounded in the pain of broken things. Jed is the middle child in a family torn asunder by the death of Zeke, Jed's jazz-loving older brother. To fulfill an assignment for English class, Jed, with his friend, Flyer, sets out to videotape the sights and sounds of Lower East Side Manhattan, as recorded in Zeke's journals and poems. Along the way, Jed encounters a mysterious homeless girl who may hold the key to why Zeke died, if Jed can somehow unlock her secrets. This is hardly the first novel to use a teen's adventures with video as a metaphor for coming-of-age, but Mack, author of the acclaimed Drawing Lessons (2000), never lets the technology take over. Jed's family has shut down almost completely in the wake of Zeke's death--symbolized by Jed's psychosomatic speech impediment--but the camera lets the tongue-tied auteur see without speaking. Even when the talking starts, though, the words remain powerfully ambiguous, the healing poignantly attenuated. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 670L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 198 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; First Edition edition (October 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439535905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439535908
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,420,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James O. Retz on September 21, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Birdland is about two friends, Jed and Flyer who videotape a documentary about their nieghborhood. Flyer is videoing the nieghborhood to hope to connect with his father although he is not very good with a camera. He and his father had not been getting a long ever since Flyer's mother had left. Jed, on the oter hand is searching for Zeke, a poet who liked Charlie "Bird" Parker. Zeke had a lot of CD's, notebooks, and a lot of unanswered questions about himself and Charlie Parker. I think what makes this book so good is that the author wrote it so that it builds a lot of suspense. I recommend this book because it has a lot of adventure, suspense, and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cassie Wilson on October 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Tracy Mack's mastery of language and writing style is especially evident in her latest book, Birdland. She moves the reader effortlessly through the pages and through the streets of New York City, making them seem alive enough to smell or feel. This portrait of grief is hopeful and uplifting as three families deal with the problems they have to deal with. It's a good book for teens to read, but I recommend it for anyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
You don't have to live in New York City to fall under the spell of this beautiful novel. Descriptions of the city are cinematic, and so affecting as the story of a boy dealing with loss unfolds. Teens will relate to Jed and the weight of what he's going through, and experience the way that weight is lifted as he works things out. Impressive and unforgettable.
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