Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney

African Americans Hibernia, Willie, and Otis each tell their stories of life during the Great Depression when Joe Louis was fighting to win the heavyweight title. Hibernia is a typical teenager wanting to be independent. She wonders about her mom, who left them when Hibernia was born, in order to pursue her dream to become a famous singer. Hibernia’s dad is the Reverend who doesn’t like it that Hibernia can sing like her mother. He’s been mad about her mom leaving and wants to squash Hibernia’s singing dreams. He only lets Hibernia sing in the church choir, but she eventually changes his mind. Hibernia reminds me of Anne of Green Gables: impulsive, melodramatic, self-centered, irritating, loveable and filled with a good heart. Willie dreams of being a boxer like his dad. Except his dad no longer boxes, has trouble holding a job, and constantly criticizes Willie. He’s also a drunk. During one bought of drinking, he harms Willie so badly that Willie has to runaway to an orphanage to be safe. He makes friends with a boy there named, Otis. Otis lives at the orphanage after his parents die in a horrible crash. His parents were loving and happily married. They loved to tell jokes, laugh and spend time as a family together. His dad had to live in a different city because of a new job, but when Otis and his mom saw him they had quality time with him. When the family car crashes, Otis is the only survivor and devastated by the loss of his parents. He deals with it by telling riddles – something the family loved to do together. His mom used to be a good singer and when Hibernia comes to the orphanage to sing with the church choir he is attracted to her magnificent voice and personality. He seeks Mrs. Weiss’s help on how to get Hibernia’s attention. When all three finally do get together, it’s a meeting of hope, symbolized in the fights of Joe Louis.

The writing is descriptive and rich throughout the story. Hibernia talks about herself as Happy-Hibernia and Not-Happy Hibernia, Willie likes the words Uh-huh and Uh-uh, while Otis spews riddles like water from a faucet. The language is rich in similes and metaphors giving the words a rhythm of their own: There is practically nothing that could ever make me leave my wagon, but when five special words – Sing,Voice, Win, and Big wave at me with both hands and jump up like new friends ready to say hello, my wagon takes a fast backseat to anything else. Not to mention those dollar signs, which are pretty chorus dancers doing high kicks right next to Big. I thought the beginning and end were not as strong as the middle of this story. The beginning was confusing with all the names. I had no clue who Hibernia was talking to between Skip Gibson, the Savoy, Speaky, and the Reverend. The Savoy is a popular ballroom in Harlem. Skip Gibson is the commentator on the radio for Joe Louis fights. Speaky is the name of the radio, and the Reverend is her dad. In addition, the ending seemed too abrupt. Willie changed emotionally at the end but Hibernia and Otis didn’t which made it less satisfying. Also, when Willie is injured I didn’t realize it was that serious. I thought he would have ended up at the hospital and going to doctors. But these are little quibbles in a very satisfying, wonderfully told story.

Reading Level 4.6

:-):-):-):-) 4 out of 5 Smileys

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