Skip to main content

Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose, and an Unlikely Friendship


When I was in mid elementary, my class was given the opportunity in something that would change my life forever. I know that's a bit dramatic, but looking back, it's one of those 'small step' times in my life that I can see how it made a difference in how I see the world. I signed up for a penpal who lived half the globe away. If my memory is correct than I was able to choose the top 3 countries or regions that I'd like to have a penpal from. For a large part of my K-8 career, I wanted to be an archaeologist, and I was ecstatic that I was able to receive letters from a girl my age in the country I read about a lot in my free time--Egypt.

When I received the first letter from my penpal, I couldn't wait to open it. The stamps, the envelope, the stationary--everything was so different than I had ever seen. This girl, my age, was named Yasmine and had dark eyes like me, and covered hair in her school photo. It was interesting to me that she would have her hair covered by a cloth (it should be said the place I grew up wasn't very diverse, at least I didn't know anyone who looked unlike me in a noticeable way until I was older), since I had never seen that before. She was very pretty, and drew me lovely pictures every time she wrote. Even her little brother wanted to write to me! We asked each other the regular questions: what's your favorite school subject? What's your favorite thing to eat? and I would marvel that something so flimsy-a piece of paper-could fly halfway around the world, not get lost, and contain so many differences, even the way she constructed her sentences was different than me!


 Twenty years later and I still have every single piece she sent. We had never met, and yet nearly 7,000 miles between us, we had a friendship through letters, drawings, questions, and school photos. Looking back, I know this small, actionable step was part of what made me me, because my view of the world got bigger through those letters. It was an experience where my interest in travel, cultures around the world, and my thirst for knowledge expanded and swelled. I wanted to know more about more people, not only in Egypt, but in other countries, too. I would go on to communicate with two other girls across the globe, one in Malaysia, and one in Ukraine, but never did I have the same rapport as with my first penpal, Yasmine. She was a friend who was so different, and yet, our differences made us interesting to each other. We both wanted to know more about each other, and that kept our communication alive.

***

I tell you this story because pieces of our past are interesting to others, even if they seem so small and insignificant to us. This was a memory from almost two decades ago, but it made such an impact on me that slowly, over the years of communicating with Yasmine, my worldview changed to open up to topics that still interest me today, travel, history, culture, diversity, and cross-cultural or unlikely relationships. If you wrap all that up in a book, well, then I'm sold. 


Blue Birds is a story about some of these things: historical markers, tensions between cultures, but at it's core, it's about unlikely friendships. The story takes place in the New World, specifically, the second set of new settlers from England and the Roanoke people who already live there. Alis,the main character from the settlement, finds her new surroundings beautiful, raw, and pure, and can't get enough of the natural world. She stumbles upon a native Roanoke girl, Kimi,and they communicate together secretly through symbols, facial expressions, touch, and gifts.

Life in the New World is tough, and there are tensions between these Englishmen and women and the woodlands people, blood is shed. As readers, we are allowed into Alis's and Kimi's thoughts, and we're given insight into the cultural biases and misunderstandings. All this, and it's written in poetry. There is a quick pace to this large historical novel, and I could have read it in just one sitting if I didn't have to force myself to go to bed. The poems are accessible, and even with less detail than is normally given to a novel, the word images, plot line, climax and resolution don't miss a beat because of Rose's fine tuning. The ending even left me surprised, and that doesn't happen often with the YA fiction I've read.

This post is part of a week-long celebration in honor of the book Blue Birds. Author Caroline Starr Rose is giving away a downloadable PDF of this beautiful Blue Birds quote (created by Annie Barnett of Be Small Studios) for anyone who pre-orders the book from January 12-19Simply click through to order from AmazonBarnes and NobleBooks A MillionIndieBound, or Powell's, then email a copy of your receipt tocaroline@carolinestarrrose.com by Monday, January 19. PDFs will be sent out January 20.

*I was given an advance reader's copy to review in exchange for a blog post/review, but the opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

Comments

Love this, Sarah, especially how cross-cultural friendships can broaden our world.
Victoria Wilson said…
Oh wow, what a great story Sarah :) That's truly special. Great post!
Lily Lau said…
This story is so lovely, Sarah... thanks :)

Popular posts from this blog

How To: DIY Sand/Water Table

How To: Build A Sand/Water Table for Under $30!
Sorry this took me so long to blog, but I had to have a tool list and full instructions before I could do so.
A little history on my love for the sand/water table. I love the idea behind tools for tiny hands, i.e. the Montessori Method, and like to have Lukka 'figure things out for himself', even when he is playing. I try to have the most simple and basic toys available for 3 reasons: a) simple toys generally have less parts, which means less of a hassle for me
b) simple toys inspire way more creativity and imagination than do 'exact replica' toys
c) they are much more aesthetically pleasing to look at, therefore, not making every nook and cranny of our house an eyesore!
I know the last reason is just for me, but it's true. Plastic things don't generally last 1/2 as long as wooden or fabric toys, and they are unattractive. For this reason, I started to look for a wooden sand/water table as opposed to a plastic one …

Anikka's 9th Birthday Interview

What is your favorite color? Sparkly purple and Sparkly pink
Who are some of your friends? Isla, Kathryn, Rachel, Nyah, Arnica, Ashlyn, Charlotte, Charlee, Ana, Anna
What do you want to be when you grow up? arist; painter, room designer?  
What makes you happy? Grammy, Oma, you (me, mom)
What makes you sad? being away from Copper


What is your favorite animal?an Alicorn 
What is your favorite book?  a sketchbook
What is your favorite thing to do with Mom? color, draw, hang out
What is your favorite thing to do with Dad? go on the motorbike
What is your favorite thing to do with Lukka? play cats
What do you like to do with your friends?  hang out, talk, color, play Barbies


What do you like to do outside? play with friends
Where do you like to go?  Lincoln
What is your favorite food? rice crackers 



What is your favorite drink? Root Beer What is your favorite restaurant?  Boston Pizza or Big Al's
What is your favorite subject in school?art

What is your favorite thing to watch? School of Rock 
What is …

Lukka's 11th Birthday Interview

What is your favorite color? turquoise

Who are some of your friends? Brody, Cole, Ani (sometimes)



What do you want to do when you grow up? be someone who plays with puppies, an Apple tester, maybe an engineer

What is your favorite animal? dog, turtle, tiger




What is your favorite thing to do with Anikka? play cats

What is your favorite thing to do with your friends? jump on the trampoline, swimming, bike riding, skiing



What do you like to do outside? skiing, biking, taking Copper for walks, playing Chuck-it with Copper, frisbee with dad

What do you like to do inside? play on my kindle, cook, read


What is your favorite food? mac n cheese, alfredo pasta, bagels, hamburgers, cheese curds from Culvers

What is your favorite drink? Dr Pepper, Sprite, or Root Beer or OJ



What is your favorite restaurant? Chipotle and Red Robin

What is your favorite subject in school? Reading, Wildwood (various, usually Socials), piano




What is your favorite thing to watch? Moana, Sing, Flubber, School of Rock, Lost in Spac…