Saturday, March 7, 2015

Kid Konnection: Blue Birds

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you a beautiful story about friendship that also happens to be written in verse.

Summary: It’s 1587 and twelve-year-old Alis has made the long journey with her parents from England to help settle the New World, the land christened Virginia in honor of the Queen. And Alis couldn’t be happier. While the streets of London were crowded and dirty, this new land, with its trees and birds and sky, calls to Alis. Here she feels free. But the land, the island Roanoke, is also inhabited by the Roanoke tribe and tensions between them and the English are running high, soon turning deadly.

Amid the strife, Alis meets and befriends Kimi, a Roanoke girl about her age. Though the two don’t even speak the same language, these girls form a special bond as close as sisters, willing to risk everything for the other. Finally, Alis must make an impossible choice when her family resolves to leave the island and bloodshed behind.

A beautiful, tender story of friendship and the meaning of family, Caroline Starr Rose delivers another historical gem. -- Putnam

I absolutely adored the middle grade novel MAY B by Caroline Starr Rose -- you can read my review here. It's hard to believe it's been over three years since I read this critically acclaimed story about a young girl who goes to work for her neighbors for a few months only to have them unexpectedly leave. As a result, May B finds herself all alone and struggling to survive. I loved this story about an amazingly strong girl, but what impressed me even more was that the entire novel was written in verse!

In just a few days, Ms. Rose's new novel called BLUE BIRDS will be released. I am so happy to say that I had the chance to read an advance copy of the novel, and it's every bit as wonderful as MAY B. This time, Ms. Rose takes readers to 1587 when a 12 year old girl named Alis travels to the island of Roanoke from London.

When Alis arrives to the island, she loves the trees and beauty of the landscape -- it's very different from the hustle and bustle of London. While she loves the closeness to nature, she finds that she's very lonely for a friend. And then one day, Alis meets a girl her own age from the Roanoke tribe named Kimi; and despite not speaking the same language, the girls find a way to communicate with each other.

As most of you know from your history classes, the Roanoke tribe and the English didn't exactly get along. As the tension escalates between the two groups, Alis and Kimi are caught in the middle. Both girls are willing to sacrifice everything for each other... even if that means losing what's most dear to them.

I absolutely loved BLUE BIRDS. At its heart, it's a special story about friendship and the sacrifices individuals are willing to make for others. Yet, the book is also a wonderful way for middle grade readers to learn about the what happened on Roanoke Island back in the 1500s. I truly treasured each and every beautifully written page of this story!

Once again, I am blown away by Ms. Rose's writing skills. I know I would have loved this story in an form, but it was even more special because it was written in verse. The author managed to capture the beauty of Roanoke, while at time conveying the danger the people living there faced. In addition, she brought to life an unusual friendship and all the emotions that go with it. Trust me when I say that this book is something special!

Another aspect that I adored about BLUE BIRDS was the history lesson that it provided. Having grown up visiting the Outer Banks every year, I saw the dramatization of The Lost Colony so I was somewhat familiar with the background of this story. However, I quickly realized that I had forgotten much of it. I was so impressed with how Ms. Rose incorporated the history (or the little that is known) about Roanoke Island with her story. She also provided a brief history lesson at the end of the book for those readers who wanted to know more... or what was fact versus fiction.

And finally, I loved the overall message of the story... the way she portrayed the friendship between Alis and Kimi. It was so sweet and evoked the feelings I had as a young girl moving from town to town. These two girls were very special and their love for each other definitely stood the test of time (among other things!) Their friendship was able to survive different cultures, different skin colors, and even different languages.

BLUE BIRDS would make an excellent pick for Mother/Daughter book clubs. I wasn't able to find a formal guide, but I'm hoping the author creates one for her website. In the meantime, she does have some teacher resources available on book clubs and her other book MAY B. Some topics you might want to explore include loss, grief, sacrifice, courage, new beginnings, loneliness, different cultures, war, and (of course) friendship.

BLUE BIRDS is a wonderful middle grade book! Highly recommended!

Thanks to the author and publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


bermudaonion said...

Oh my, you know how I love a book written in verse!

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

This does look good, I am interested in the time, how cool to read a book set so many years ago!