Sunday, May 26, 2019

Birdie, by Eileen Spinelli

As a kid
I told my mom
I wanted to be a bird
when I grew up.
She never said
I couldn't.
So for years
I bird-sang my words.
And saved dryer lint
and old gift ribbons
for future nests.

For twelve year-old Birdie, everything around her seems to be changing.  Since her father died in a fire fighting accident, she's relied on Mom and their elderly friend Maymee for stability.  And her friends Nina and Martin are always there as well.  But Maymee's found a beau and even Mom has started dating.  While she is happy about the former, the latter feels like a betrayal of her father and Birdie resists the boyfriend's attempt to befriend her.  Birdie's thought that it might be nice to have Martin as a first boyfriend is thwarted when he and Nina start dating.  About the only thing that provides stability in Birdie's life are the birds that she watches, dutifully collating observation lists every day.

A delightful middle grade story in verse that combines the usual thematic suspects for anxious teen readers: changing friendships, the sudden importance and difficulty of romantic entanglements, evolving families, and growing responsibilities.  The material is not new and the verse is functional, but this compact story is pleasing on several levels.  Particularly endearing are Birdie's gradual acceptance of her mother's new boyfriend, the instructive lesson of Maymee's romance and its challenges, and her struggles with both positive and negative ways of dealing with her jealousy towards Martin and Nina.

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