Monday, August 1, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Bird In a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney

About The Book:  In a small upstate New York town during the Great Depression, three children—Hibernia, Willie, and Otis—are about to meet. Hibernia dreams of becoming a famous singer and performing at Harlem’s swanky Savoy Ballroom. Willie is recovering from a tragedy that prevents him from becoming a junior boxing champ. Otis spends every night glued to the radio, listening to the voices that remind him of Daddy and Ma.Each of them is looking for hope, and they all find it in the thrilling boxing matches of young Joe Louis. They know Joe has a good chance of becoming the country’s next heavyweight champion. What they don’t know is that during this unforgettable year, the three of them will become friends. 

First Line:  "For crying out loud! Skip Gibson, you have done it again. You have turned Happy Hibernia into Not-Happy Hibernia." (Okay, so it's the first two.)

One Great Line: "My face gets hotter than a straightening comb, and I'm curling my toes inside my shoes." (102)

What Others Are Saying:  "All the same can be said for Pinkney, who lets her own tunes fly, with her ability to establish a distinctive tone and bring vivid metaphors to readers. Such writing siiiings and swings. As Willie might say, Pinkney knows how to get her oh, yeahs on and writes with her own “happy, steady stomp”:  “Morning drops down like a blanket of butter.” “Nighttime’s putting on a cape and sweeping it across the sky.” “If a whittle stick had a twin, Otis’d be it.” - Kirkus

Pinkney enlivens potentially remote historical circumstances through her sympathetic characters who, despite the constraints of their era, struggle for dignity and human connection on their own terms. Ages 8 12. (Apr.) --Publishers Weekly

What I Thought:
There are so many reasons I loved this that it's difficult to know where to start. Pinkney's ability to turn a phrase made me sad as I hit the last page, like the last bite of your favorite food, the savory flavor stays long after the last swallow. There has been some critique on what some say is a lack of character development but I would disagree. Each character is replete with unique quirks and personality. There's opinionated Hibernia, with her high energy dreaming, riddle-lover Otis, who's devastation at the loss of his parents doesn't stop him from being compassionate and uh-huh Willie, who has every reason to see red, but instead finds courageous strength. I also love historical fiction, especially when I can witness the effect real history has on characters that seem so real. Loved, loved, loved this, uh-huh.

About The Author: Andrea Davis Pinkney

Who:  Born in 1963 and raised in Connecticut, Pinkney enjoyed reading and writing stories throughout her school-age years. After graduating from high school she attended Syracuse University, where she graduated in journalism in the mid-1980s. For her first job she worked as editor of a home-decorating magazine. From there she moved to Essence, a publication geared toward African-American women, where Pinkney headed the modern living section and wrote feature articles on family life, travel, and history. A move to book publishing found Pinkney working first at Simon & Schuster and Scholastic before signing on with Hyperion Books for Children. At Hyperion, Pinkney promoted the works of African-American authors, gaining praise within the publishing industry and providing young black readers with books that promote and extol the many positive aspects of their heritage.

When:  "One interesting fact is that the first story Mrs. Pinkney remembers writing was about her family when she was only in second grade. Books and stories are what inspired Mrs. Pinkney to choose a career as an author. Mrs. Pinkney's husband illustrates many of her books." -- More Here.

How:  "Andrea Davis Pinkney puts meticulous research into each one of her historical children's stories, including Coretta Scott King Honor winners "Duke Ellington" and "Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters." She spends hours in the library and on interviews to pin down the fine details that bring heroic figures to life." -

Don't forget to check out the other MMGM posters in my side bar.


  1. This sounds awesome. I love reading books of this time period and all the characters sound unique. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Oh! This sounds fascinating! Anything with a historical twist is my favorite and what I read aloud to my kids most often. Thank you for highlighting this one. I love your 'first line' showcase too. I may snatch that idea when I particularly love a first line.


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