Author: Esther Ehrlich
Copy Obtained: Borrowed from friend
A heartfelt and unforgettable middle-grade novel about an irresistible girl and her family, tragic change, and the healing power of love and friendship. In 1972 home is a cozy nest on Cape Cod for eleven-year-old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein, her older sister, Rachel; her psychiatrist father; and her dancer mother. But then Chirp’s mom develops symptoms of a serious disease, and everything changes.
Chirp finds comfort in watching her beloved wild birds. She also finds a true friend in Joey, the mysterious boy who lives across the street. Together they create their own private world and come up with the perfect plan: Escape. Adventure. Discovery.
I'm going to be honest - I'm torn about how to review this book and what to say. It's not that I didn't like it - I did! But I'm torn about how and when I would recommend it to students. It covers some very tough issues (I won't share them to avoid spoilers). These issues (on in particular) would be very difficult for some students to handle. Because of that I would not hand this book to every child. Some just wouldn't be ready for it. I think the topics it covers are very important, and kids need to know about them and see how people deal with them. It is extremely important! But I know that some of my younger students wouldn't be ready for it.
As an adult I felt for every singe character in this book. Chirp is so sweet and kind and trying to do her best. To watch her struggle through all this was difficult. What kids could gain from reading her story is an understanding of people who are going through something difficult. They would walk away with a broader view of the world. I also felt for Chirp's sister Rachel. At times I wanted to shake her, but I understood why she was acting as she was. Even though she's not the main character, I think readers can learn a lot from her part of the story as well. Lastly I felt for their father. As an adult I could connect with him the most. I think much of his story would be lost on younger people reading the book, but adults deciding to read it would relate to him.
About Joey. Loved him! I wanted to bundle him up and bring him home with me. But again his story is something younger kids might struggle with. There isn't really any strong clear details about his home life when he goes in the house and closes the door, but it's clear what he's dealing with - an heartbreaking.
Few other things - I liked the Jewish aspects of the novel. My husband is Jewish, so it was nice to see the Jewish faith portrayed so simply and almost matter-of-fact. I think it would be great for all kids to see that because it would give them some knowledge they might not have.
So in ending - great book that gives a lot to the reader, but I will be careful what readers I recommend it to.