Bird in a Box

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Bird in a Box
 
Andrea Davis Pinkney
Little, Brown and Company, 2011
This story takes place in 1936-37 Elmira, New York. The Great Depression is in full swing and many people have nothing. Told from the perspective of 3 middle-grade children, the story reveals their hopes and dreams as they hope and dream for the boxer Joe Lewis to win the world title.
Main Characters:
*Hibernia Lee Tyson, 12 year old girl, dreams of being a “big-city performer” at the Savoy in Harlem, a dream her minister-father calls a sin;
*Willie Martel, 13-year old boy, is told by his mother to save himself and go to an orphanage, The Mercy Home for Negro Orphans ; his dreams of being a boxer like Joe Lewis are crushed by his father’s abusive hands; he is angry and hurt but despite his pain he adopts another fighter – a beat-up alley cat he names Bird, because the cat’s “like a bird in a box, wishing {he} could fly  free” (Pg 53).
 *Otis Rollins, orphaned when his parents die in a horrible accident, ends up at Mercy and becomes fast friends with Willie. Otis dreams of the happy life he had with his mother and father before the accident and of his love, Hibernia, whom after seeing her sing in a choir, he immediately falls for her.
Secondary Characters:
*Reverend C. Elias Tyson, father to Hibernia and strict and straight as they come. His wife, Pauline and Hibernia’s mother, abandoned them just after Hibernia was born. She set off for Harlem to live a big life as a singer.
*Lila Weiss, kindly white woman who works at Mercy and joins Reverend Tyson’s church. She goes out of her way to make life at the orphanage a happy place for the children and becomes somewhat of a substitute mother to them.
*Mr. Sneed, aka “the bleach man” so named by Otis because “He’s just like bleach – stings your skin, strips away anything colorful, is pale as a pillowcase.” (pg 95); he runs the orphanage but takes no joy in it and doesn’t understand why Mrs. Weiss would want to bring music and reading and other fun things into the orphan’s lives.
You might expect a story of children enduring the Great Depression without one or both parents to be sad and bleak – but in the case of Bird in a Box, you would be wrong. As hard as times were, as sad as they could be, this story is filled with joy, tinged with sadness and saturated with unbounding hope. The author weaves the hope and promise of the true-life boxing great, Joe Louis, aka “The Brown Bomber,” throughout the story, a metaphor for the lives of these three kids. He is a symbol of dreams coming true for them and he gives them hope to hold on to in their darkest night. Well-written for middle grade readers, this book will enrich the lives of anyone of any age who reads it. It is a book we will be adding to our permanent library.
Rating: 5 out of 5 paws
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Reviewer: BobbieSue
Some of the many books by the author:
All Books | Andrea Davis Pinkney  Author Andrea Davis Pinkney | Savannah Children's Book Festival | Pin ...  Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters  Andrea Davis Pinkney | Savannah Children's Book Festival | Pinterest  Alvin Ailey Paperback – September 5, 1995  The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney — Reviews, Discussion ...
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