Book Review: White Bird

written by Andrea Bowers

The other day I was at Costco in their book section, looking for a couple of Christmas gifts when I stumbled upon this book. You may know all about it, I didn’t, because I don’t really keep up with current events very well. I saw that it was a “Wonder” book. I read “Wonder” with my book group one month and we loved it. I really loved the way it was written from the point of view of the different family members in the story and I loved learning about each person’s perspective in their own words.

“Auggie and Me,” the sequel, came out soon after and again, as a book group, we read it. It was amazing! In my opinion, better than the original story. The first book was great and primarily focused on Auggie but boiled down, it was a story we hear all the time. Outcast is mistreated, outcast makes a couple of friends out of other kids who don’t fit the “normal” mold, outcast withstands bullying, eventually saves the day, and becomes everyone’s favorite. They grow through the experience, things turn around, and life is good again.

“Auggie and Me” was different than “Wonder” because it focused primarily on each of the kids in the main character’s life (Auggie-from Wonder) and gave some history and back story about each of them. The kids in Auggie and me weren’t odd kids or physically out of the ordinary from others but their lives and their stories were interesting and the new perspective helped you understand why they acted the way they did around others, especially Auggie. One of the characters is named Julian and he’s one of Auggie’s tormenters through the first book, “Wonder”. As I read “Wonder”, I remember thinking to myself, what makes a kid so entitled? Why is he having such a hard time with Auggie and why does he need to be so mean about it.

Thankfully, “Auggie and Me” answered those questions and this new book, “White Bird” explores that boy’s story, Julian’s, a little earlier than him. It is the story of his Grandmother, a Jewish girl in France during World War 2, her parents, and her rescuers.

I didn’t expect the book to be a graphic novel, but I loved the format. Pictures say a thousand words, after all, and it’s so easy to get lost in the story. I started it in Costco, to see if it was any good, and stood there for about 45 minutes reading it. I couldn’t put it down, and I didn’t feel like it was too fair to read the whole book without buying it. So, I bought it and took it home and thought about it the whole rest of the day, slightly irritated that I couldn’t sit down and finish it.

I don’t know about you, but I have all the time in the world to do stuff outside of my house (or at least I pretend I do) but when I get home, there’s no time to read anymore. So, I put off reading to put my groceries away and do all of the other grown-up stuff I am responsible for and I really did think about it all night. I felt like I’d left my friends, these characters, in a very precarious position and I needed to get back to them to make sure it ended ok.

The following day, I took the time to finish it. I’d say it took me about 2 hours total to read it and I loved that. I also loved this book. The characters are fictional but the author did a lot of research and based them on real people and real stories. She melded a few people she’d learned about into single characters and also did a great job teaching a difficult concept to young readers. War is violent and not the most uplifting subject, but I felt the author was dedicated to highlighting the good people in this world and their efforts to make a difference. She had a very clear objective, don’t let history repeat itself. Teach young people the dangers of discrimination, hatred, and intolerance so that we can live together in peace. There is a very clear message to young readers, you’re responsible for our future, be aware of that and act accordingly.

The main characters, Sara and Julian are relatable, the antagonist is relatable, the situation, not likely one that we’ve been in, in the exact same way, it is still somehow relatable. I love history and I feel as if this is a great retelling of a very important time in history. Things worked out well in the end for Sara but one of the most fascinating things is the generational aspect of the story. I love that we can see that if we don’t teach across generations, we really do repeat the mistakes of the past.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Those were dark times, yes… but what has stayed with me the most… is not the darkness…but the light. That is what I have held on to all these years.”

“The truth is, it doesn’t matter how you used to be. It only matters how you are now.”

“It always takes courage to be kind. But in those days, when such kindness could cost you everything — your freedom, your life — kindness becomes a miracle. It becomes that light in the darkness that papa talked about, the very essence of our humanity. It is hope.”

I’d recommend this book and all of the “Wonder” books, if you’ve read this, let me know what you thought.

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