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Birdland

by Tracy Mack

Published by Scholastic Press, 2003
198 pages
ISBN: 0-439-53590-5

Age 12 - 15

Over winter break, Jed is working on a class assignment to record life in his East Greenwich Village neighborhood on video. The idea is to blend the work of all the students to create a collage of the city, the fragments coming together to make a whole. As he and his best friend, Flyer, work on the project, Jed reveals the fragments of his family's life, torn apart in the wake of his older brother's death the previous summer. Zeke, a diabetic who died of insulin shock, seemed to live on the edge with regard to his health. Jed wants to know and understand his brother better, and all that's left are remnants of his life. Grief over Zeke's death, and unresolved feelings because of the tension there had been between Zeke and their doctor father, fills Jed's home with sadness and silence rather than answers. So Jed looks for solace in the spaces that Zeke once occupied. He likes spending time in Zeke's room and walking the streets Zeke once walked. Above all, he cherishes Zeke's notebook, filled with his brother's poems, which offer him insights into Zeke's thoughts about himself, his family, and the landscape of the neighborhood that Jed has been filming. Part of that landscape is Kiki, a homeless teen whom Jed feels is connected to Zeke in some way. Kiki shocks Jed's family out of their insular pain when she tries to commit suicide after Jed helps her find shelter from a fierce winter storm. In reaching out to help Kiki, they finally begin to talk, and healing begins. Tracy Mack's debut novel is full of fresh, lyrical imagery and quietly captures the poignancy of a family numb from grief but on the verge of new awakenings. The wintry setting is perfectly suited to the mood and plot of the story that features a main character who is Jewish, something fairly unusually in contemporary fiction for children and teenagers. CCBC Categories: Fiction for Young Adults.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center


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