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BIRDIE by Eileen Spinelli


by Eileen Spinelli

Pub Date: April 9th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5513-8
Publisher: Eerdmans

For at least one young girl, a small town is a good place to navigate early crushes and long-term grief.

Twelve-year-old Birdie knows everything about birds. She doesn’t quite want to be one anymore, as she did when she was little, but she still drops hairs from her hairbrush onto the lawn because “there is something / light and feathery / in my heart / at the idea / that a bird / may be weaving / the hairs from my brush / into its nest.” Mom and Birdie came to live with great-grandmother Maymee in tiny Hadley Falls (too small for a public library) three years ago, after Birdie’s firefighter father was killed in the line of duty. The grief isn’t fresh but it’s ongoing—as are Maymee’s eccentricity (she interrupts church to identify an attractive new older worshiper), the five shelves of “lending library” in a neighbor’s pantry, and classmate Loretta’s preparation to become a therapist by “seeing” neighborhood kids as clients. The adults are all good, the kids occasionally grumpy but kind, and the town safe for 12-year-olds to roam. Even the pains of an unrequited crush or a new man in Mom’s life come with soft places to fall. Birdie’s free-verse narration is thoughtful and unhurried, and although it’s interior, it shows without telling. Birdie and her family seem white by default and cover art; absence of racial markers implies that everyone is white.

A gentle look at daily beauty and at heartache that’s not caused by anyone doing anything wrong.

(Verse fiction. 9-12)