A Bird On Water Street

A Bird On Water Street

5.0 5
by Elizabeth O. Dulemba
     
 

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Thirteen-year-old Jack Hicks loves everything about Coppertown—his family and friends, barbecues and Friday music nights, and his best friend’s beautiful sister, Hannah. Everything, that is, except for what keeps the community thriving and drove out nature long ago—mining. Living in a treeless landscape that looks like the moon, he yearns to see

Overview


Thirteen-year-old Jack Hicks loves everything about Coppertown—his family and friends, barbecues and Friday music nights, and his best friend’s beautiful sister, Hannah. Everything, that is, except for what keeps the community thriving and drove out nature long ago—mining. Living in a treeless landscape that looks like the moon, he yearns to see bugs and birds and frogs outside of books.

Jack hates the mine where so many of his relatives have died, but how can he tell that to his dad, who wants him to follow in the family trade?

When the miners strike, Jack is thrilled that green and growing things at last have a chance to return to the red hills. But when that same strike threatens to close the mine and force people to leave Coppertown for new homes and jobs, Jack finds himself struggling to hold on to everything he loves most.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The men in Jack’s family have always worked the mines. The 13-year-old has already lost his grandfather and his uncle to cave-ins and explosions, and he lives in fear of a similar accident taking the life of his father. In the mid-1980s, the Southern Appalachian Coppertown is a barren, desolate place,long stripped of trees and grass by a century of mining. Jack doesn’t know how to tell his family that he has no desire to follow in his father’s footsteps, and he dreams of green trees rather than the moon like landscape of his Tennessee town. When many of the workers are laid off, the remaining miners organize a strike, thinking that the owners will remedy their unfair actions with better wages and safety conditions. The strike comes at the beginning of the holidays, resulting in a Christmas celebration that is sparser than usual but more meaningful as the community draws together. As the shutdown continues into the spring, Jack notices small signs of life returning to his toxically ravaged town—frog eggs in a shallow pool, a few weeds. He helps the growth along, starting a vegetable garden with his mom and planting a tree in his yard. The company eventually announces that it is closing the mine down for good. What could be a hopeless situation is made tolerable as the families come together to find other work opportunities and enjoy the strange sensation of seeing bugs and birds again. Historic photographs and an author’s note round out a tender story of families and friendships against the backdrop of harsh economic conditions. Hand this quiet tale to fans of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and Barbara O’Connor.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Tennessee Libraries - Kathy Campbell
Appropriate for children in grades 4 -8, A Bird on Water Street is a coming-of-age story about growing up in an East Tennessee mining community during the 1980s. Although Jack lives in an area that has been ravaged by poor mining practices, he is a typical boy who likes baseball and hanging out with his best friend. His dad has a good job in the copper mine and life is good for the most part. But then things change. Jack’s uncle is killed in a mining accident, the mining company implements a massive layoff, and the remaining overworked men (including Jack’s dad) go on strike. The strike has expected consequences: stores close, people move away, Jack’s family has to survive on a shoestring budget, and the company eventually closes the mine. In the midst of the suffering, however, the environment begins to heal. Jack’s garden begins to grow, tadpoles develop in tailings ponds, and a bird is seen on Water Street. I’m not going to give away the ending, but I will say that it is satisfying.

Dulemba’s book is not a celebration of mining, but it does celebrate the spirit of the men who work in mines. Jack comes from a long line of miners, and his father wants Jack to be a miner too. Jack, however, wants to work above ground—at 13 he has been to too many funerals for people who have either died in mining accidents or as the result of mining related illnesses. On the other hand, his friend Piran, whose father is the town’s postmaster, would like to grow up to be a miner because the miners are the royalty of Coppertown in his eyes, and he finds the underground environment appealing.

The author even pays homage to the Harmon and Hicks families of Beech Mountain, North Carolina in a scene where Jack’s mother entertains her husband and son with Jack Tales while they are stranded during an ice storm. In fact, Jack’s father is named Ray Hicks (the real Ray Hicks was a National Heritage Fellow and noted teller of Jack Tales).

The author breathes life into her characters. Readers can relate to Jack’s agony when he sees the girl he likes with an unsuitable boyfriend or his sense of wonder with the sounds and colors of the natural world outside of his barren community. Dulemba’s description of parents who are trying to act normal when the world they know is falling apart is right on target. Even the lunar-like landscape of Coppertown feels like a well-developed character—changing from a barren wasteland into an environment that can begin to support plants, trees, and animals.

Although the story is fiction, Coppertown is modeled after Copperhill, Tennessee. In an “Author’s Note,” Dulemba gives a brief history of the Copper Basin region as well as information on Appalachian culture. She also includes several photographs of the Copper Basin that readers should find fascinating.

Elizabeth Dulemba is an award-winning author/illustrator of children’s books. She is a Visiting Associate Professor at Hollins University in the MFA program in Children’s Book Writing and Illustration. A Bird on Water Street, her first novel, is well written and engaging, and is heartily recommended for public and school libraries, as well as academic libraries with juvenile collections.

School Library Journal
06/01/2014
Gr 5–8—The men in Jack's family have always worked the mines. The 13-year-old has already lost his grandfather and his uncle to cave-ins and explosions, and he lives in fear of a similar accident taking the life of his father. In the mid-1980s, the Southern Appalachian Coppertown is a barren, desolate place, long stripped of trees and grass by a century of mining. Jack doesn't know how to tell his family that he has no desire to follow in his father's footsteps, and he dreams of green trees rather than the moonlike landscape of his Tennessee town. When many of the workers are laid off, the remaining miners organize a strike, thinking that the owners will remedy their unfair actions with better wages and safety conditions. The strike comes at the beginning of the holidays, resulting in a Christmas celebration that is sparser than usual but more meaningful as the community draws together. As the shutdown continues into the spring, Jack notices small signs of life returning to his toxically ravaged town—frog eggs in a shallow pool, a few weeds. He helps the growth along, starting a vegetable garden with his mom and planting a tree in his yard. The company eventually announces that it is closing the mine down for good. What could be a hopeless situation is made tolerable as the families come together to find other work opportunities and enjoy the strange sensation of seeing bugs and birds again. Historic photographs and an author's note round out a tender story of families and friendships against the backdrop of harsh economic conditions. Hand this quiet tale to fans of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and Barbara O'Connor.—Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781939775054
Publisher:
Little Pickle Press, Inc.
Publication date:
05/07/2014
Pages:
270
Sales rank:
709,365
Product dimensions:
7.40(w) x 5.10(h) x 0.80(d)
Lexile:
760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author


Elizabeth O. Dulemba has written or illustrated over two dozen books for children, including her historical fiction debut A Bird on Water Street, winner of more than a dozen literary awards. She received a BFA from the University of Georgia, served as Illustrator Coordinator for the southern region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and served as a Board Member for the Georgia Center for the Book. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Illustration from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. During the summers, she hops across the pond to teach Picture Book Design in the MFA in Writing and Illustrating Children’s Books program at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. She enjoys traveling and seeing new sights with her husband, Stan. Visit Elizabeth online at dulemba.com.

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A Bird on Water Street 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
MomsChoiceAwards More than 1 year ago
A recipient of the Mom's Choice Awards! The Mom's Choice Awards® (MCA) evaluates products and services created for parents and educators and is globally recognized for establishing the benchmark of excellence in family-friendly media, products and services. Using a rigorous evaluation process, entries are scored on a number of elements including production quality, design, educational value, entertainment value, originality, appeal and cost. Around the world, parents, educators, retailers and members of the media trust the MCA Honoring Excellence seal when selecting quality products and services for families and children.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Set during the 1980s, the book chronicles the 8th grade year of Jack Hicks, who lives in Coppertown. The small copper mining town sits at the southern tip of the Appalachian mountains in a denuded area known as the Copper Basin. There is a not a tree, a bug or a fish that lives in the area, and Jack, who does not want to be a miner like his father and grandfather before him, aims to change things. There are so many gorgeous lines like "Coppertown sits in a bowl at the southern tip of the Appalachian Mountains" and the "Tohachee River cuts from the east to the west...like a zipper. I loved all of the names in this book that suggest something ominous will happen; you have Principal Slaughter and Grandpa's store is by Old Brawling Town Creek. I especially love how Dulemba contrasted the denuded landscape with the lush forest. When Jack Hicks, the main character, sees real trees (what a concept! after all, kids take trees for granted), he calls them "living sculptures" and contrasts the beauty to his "paperbag landscape." Dulemba did a great job with her first-person narration and Jack sounds like a real 13 (and then 14 year-old). I laughed out loud when he called it the "bird-crap tree." Some of the most moving parts are when Jack tries to do something about his scarred world. I loved it when he plants a garden and gets excited about the tadpoles (a new thing-- as nothing obviously lives in Coppertown), and I cried for Jack when the frogs end up dead. Dulemba does a great job of setting this up. After all, she described the pond the frogs are in as "crusty silicate dust." But I love that Dulemba offered so much hope as well.
Sue_P More than 1 year ago
With heartfelt passion, Dulemba takes the reader into a world few people knew. Set in 1986 in the Copper Basin, at the intersection of Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina, the story follows a bright thirteen-year-old boy as his family and his town struggle to survive. By taking the reader directly into the lives of the beautifully crafted characters, the author shows how the environment impacts everyone involved.
JAMR More than 1 year ago
I ripped through this book in two days. It's an engaging story that touches on heavy issues with a light hand. Coppertown is a juxtaposition of life and death. In the midst of a bleak landscape that's been clear cut by mining is a community full of love and music. Thirteen-year-old Jack calls it home and wants to stay there, but not at the cost of miners losing their lives in accidents or friends succumbing to illness caused by the acidic air. When layoffs and strike have his friends and family leaving town one by one, Jack is torn by the loss of community, but at the same time excited by the slow gain of something he loves passionately -- nature. After reading A Bird On Water Street, I'm more appreciative of the wealth of trees, birds and even bugs(!) in my own neighborhood. I highly recommend this enjoyable read.
MomsChoiceAwards More than 1 year ago
A recipient of the Mom's Choice Awards! The Mom's Choice Awards® (MCA) evaluates products and services created for parents and educators and is globally recognized for establishing the benchmark of excellence in family-friendly media, products and services. Using a rigorous evaluation process, entries are scored on a number of elements including production quality, design, educational value, entertainment value, originality, appeal and cost. Around the world, parents, educators, retailers and members of the media trust the MCA Honoring Excellence seal when selecting quality products and services for families and children.