This realistic story about a girl struggling to fit in tugged at my heart. A great read!
Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to Louisiana from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show her how special she really is.
Blackbird Fly was written by Erin Entrada Kelly, illustrated by Betsy Peterschmidt, and published by Greenwillow Books in 2015.
Love the realism and authenticity of this story! At times it was hard to read, because it reminded me a little of my own experiences with bullying. Apple was a likable character and I empathized with her, right from the beginning of the story. Through the story, I was rooting for her to begin to accept and love herself for who she is, and to find people who would accept her too. I especially liked all the details about the Filipino culture embedded in the story.
From a writer’s perspective, I thought the dialogue and behaviour of the middle school characters were quite believable. This novel had a strong and unique voice. It’s a good example of a contemporary middle grade novel for anyone wanting to include diversity, or to take on a theme of bullying and racism. Love the natural way the author included cultural details.
“On the day we moved to America, it snowed in Chapel Spring, Louisiana, for the first time in twenty years.”
“I found out later that carrots were supposedly good for vision, not for color or shape, but who cares about that when you can get eyeglasses or contacts? Nothing fixes slanted eyes.”
“Right before you steal something, you feel it everywhere. Your mouth gets dry. Your insides rattle. You even feel it in your fingertips.”
“Everything rushed through my head, but then it all faded away into the back of my mind, and none of that stuff mattered because there was music.”
In Blackbird Fly, the main character, Apple, believes that every person has at least three interesting facts about themselves. Author Erin Estrada Kelly lists these three interesting facts about herself on her blog: 1. She’s Filipino-American. 2. She has chronic asthma. 3. She loves rare books.
Erin wrote her first book in second grade – a story about two orphans.
Check out the playlist of Beetles songs that Apple considers to be the soundtrack for her life.
Have students brainstorm and write Three Interesting Facts about themselves. Reflect on the kinds of Interesting Facts people are willing to share about themselves. Would your facts be different if they were not for anyone else to see?
Discuss or write about Apple’s struggle to belong to her culture as well as to fit in at school. Why is it so difficult for her?