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  • Published: New York : Little, Brown, 2011.
  • Year Published: 2011
  • Edition: 1st ed.
  • Description: 278 p.
  • Language: English
  • Format: Book

Reading Level

  • Lexile: 670

ISBN/Standard Number

  • 9780316074032
  • 0316074039

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Bird in a box

by Pinkney, Andrea Davis.

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Where To Find It

Call number: Y Fiction / Pinkney, Andrea Davis

Additional Details

In 1936, three children meet at the Mercy Home for Negro Orphans in New York State, and while not all three are orphans, they are all dealing with grief and loss which together, along with the help of a sympathetic staff member and the boxing matches of Joe Louis, they manage to overcome. Includes author's notes.

Community Reviews

Excellent historical fiction

“Let’s go mighty Joe/Battle like the Alamo.” Joe Louis was an inspiration to people around the world, and especially to three black twelve year olds in Elmira, New York in Andrea Pinkney’s Bird in a Box. Hibernia, Otis, and Willie lead very different lives. Hibernia is the daughter of a preacher and dreams of becoming a famous singer, Otis lives in an orphanage because his parents were killed, and Willie lives in the orphanage because of his abusive father. When Miss Lila asks the church choir to come sing at the orphanage, their paths cross, and a tentative friendship between the three slowly evolves throughout the novel, with events that are spurred by Joe Louis fights.
This historical tale, told from the alternating perspective of Hibernia, Otis, and Willie in the late 1930’s, illustrates the power of believing in dreams. While the friendships that form in the novel are believable and even admirable, the true strength of this story lies in the growth of each of the individual characters. Hibernia, Otis, and Willie all have individual hurdles to overcome, and they do so with love, determination, and sometimes heartbreak. The events surrounding Joe Louis during this time serve as a larger backdrop that echoes the more individual turmoils highlighted in the novel. Actual radio transcripts and boxing names and events are used in the book, adding authenticity to the story. While this is a heartwarming book of self-discovery and acceptance, there are also a couple of passages that are hauntingly disturbing, such as the scene where Willie’s hands are burned in hominy by his father. Scenes like this fit in the storyline, but may be disturbing for younger readers. For that reason, this prize-fighting book is recommended for grades 6 and up.

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