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Homeless Bird Hardcover – March 1, 2000


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"What if I don't like him?"
"Of course you will like him."
"But what if I don't?"
Maa impatiently slapped at a fly. "Then you must learn to like him."

But Koly never gets a chance to find out if she does care for her intended groom. Married and promptly widowed at 13, Koly finds herself in the grim position of being cast out by a society that has no place for girls like her. With a seemingly hopeless future in India, this courageous and spirited young woman sets out to forge her own destiny. Through perseverance, resourcefulness, and sheer luck, she manages not only to find a niche for herself, but even to find happiness again.

Gloria Whelan's tale of a remarkable girl in an extraordinary situation will linger with the reader long after the last page is read. The shaping of Koly's life, as anyone's, is in her own hands, as well as the hands of the society in which she lives. Her ability to express herself--and ultimately support herself--with her exceptional skill in embroidery is a symbol of the creative ingenuity that will serve her well throughout her tribulations. (Ages 8 and older) --Emilie Coulter

From Publishers Weekly

Whelan (Miranda's Last Stand) blends modern Hindu culture with age-old Indian traditions as she profiles a poor girl's struggle to survive in a male-dominated society. Only 13 when her parents find her a husband, Koly can't help feeling apprehensive about leaving home to live in a distant village with her in-laws and husband, none of whom she has met. The truth is worse than she could have feared: the groom, Hari, is a sickly child, and his parents have wanted only a dowry, not a wife for him, in order to pay for a trip to Benares so Hari might bathe in the holy waters of the Ganges. Koly is widowed almost immediately; later, she is abandoned in the holy city of Vrindavan by her cruel mother-in-law. Koly, likened to a "homeless bird" in a famous poem by Rabindranath Tagore, embodies the tragic plight of Hindu women without status, family or financial security. She is saved from a dismal fate by her love of beauty, her talent for embroidery and the philanthropy of others--and by Whelan's tidy plotting, which introduces a virtuous young man, a savvy benefactress and a just employer in the nick of time. The feminist theme that dominates the happily-ever-after ending seems more American than Indian, but kids will likely enjoy this dramatic view of an endangered adolescence and cheer Koly's hard-won victories. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 800L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (March 31, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060284544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060284541
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (257 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,132,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

175 of 206 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I grew up in India till the age of 24. I was very excited when I saw this book on the NY Times children's bestseller list and bought it for my daughter. However, the excitement soon turned to complete shock and and utter disgust. People of Indian origin have discussed this book and absolutely detest it. The facts are wrong and contradictory, and it portrays a picture of India which is very misleading. It is akin to an Indian writer writing a book for Indian children based in the US where the protagonist is raped by her father - yes, it happens in rare instances in the US, but it is rare, and it is not something that we make the topic of a children's book. Let me point out some factual mistakes - (1) holi is portayed as a festival where people mix color with cow urine and spray it on each other - this is so absurd that when I showed it to other Indians, we were in splits of laughter. On holi, we put natural colored powders like turmeric, or colored flour on each other. Children also have water gun and water baloon fights (just like in the United States), (2) the girl calls her father "baap". This is very unlikely to happen in India. It is a very disrespectful form of addressing a father, (3) the girl protagonist's (Koli's) parents are too poor to feed her but can give a dowry to marry her (the people who want the dowry can afford to feed her, so presumably the dowry is more than the cost of feeding the girl). I wondered whether I could have been mistaken about (1)-(3) - after all, the book has won a prestigious award and presumably they checked on the facts. I assumed that the author had lived in India or had at least travelled there. I found an interview with the author (...Read more ›
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
13 year old Koly leaves her family and a simple but harsh country life when she is married off to a Hindu boy she has never met. She knows she cannot resist because her dowry will help her family financially. To her surprise, she is soon widowed when the groom dies of tuberculosis and is left in the hands of his selfish and greedy Mother. Koly is eventually abandoned in a holy city where unwanted widows are deserted and must use her strength and courage to carve out a life for herself. This is a beautifully written and fully engaging story with imagery that transports the reader directly into Koly's world. Readers will admire this strong female character who must rely on herself and her beautiful gift for embroidery to become self sustainable and find true happiness. Hindi terms and explanations of Indian culture give a fascinating look at life in modern India and the societal limiations of girls and women.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
My 11 year old daughter and I each read this book and came to the same conclusion -- time well spent. We loved it. She read it in one day. Once you begin, you just can't put it down. So many trials are faced and ultimately triumphed over. Koly is a wonderful heroine -- realistic and admirable. The amazing thing to me is that this story takes place in modern times. At first I thought I was reading a story from long ago but then a computer was mentioned. How horrifying that this goes on in our world today. We highly recommend this book.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Cathy A Belben on May 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Koly, a 13 year old Indian girl with a gift for embroidery, is forced into an arranged marriage by her parents. When she arrives at her new husband's house to live, however, she learns that he is a sick boy, and that his parents chose her as his bride only in order to use the dowry money to transport their son to the healing waters of a sacred river. When he dies and she is left with her in-laws, Koly begins to yearn for her own life, and only because of her stepmother's cruely is she able to escape tradition and pursue her own dreams. As a high school librarian, I may struggle to find readers for this story, which is rather simple and lacking in the tension and subplotting that often makes for rich, mature reading. However, the theme of escaping and following one's own dreams may appeal to some students, and as always, relationships in other cultures often interest young adult readers.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Meredith on June 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I work in a children's book store and have read many children's books. This book is by far one of my favorites for this age level. The story is moving and Whelan really has a talent for making her charaters come alive with her wonderful description and dialogue. I was impressed and moved by this book -- what can I say, I'm a sucker for these type of endings. I strongly reccomend this book!
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Johannes on December 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Homeless Bird is a lovely story about a young girl, Koly, whose idealist world of comfort and love is ended when she is sent off to marry a young man who soon dies and leaves her as a 13 year-old widow. While it would appear as though Koly's only hopes for happiness lay in the hands of her new family--Sass, Sassur, and sister-in-law Chandra--we soon realize (as Koly does) that true happiness must come from within...The language of this novel is stunning, complete with descriptive passages that will leave you feeling as though Koly is your great, personal friend. You will cheer for this character! This is an excellent novel of empowerment for young girls--ages 9 to 15.
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