Birdland

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Fourteen-year-old, tongue-tied Jed spends Christmas break working on a school project filming a documentary about his East Village, New York City, neighborhood, where he is continually reminded of his older brother, Zeke, a promising poet who died the year before.

Fourteen-year-old, tongue-tied Jed spends Christmas break working on a school project filming a documentary about his East Village, New York City, neighborhood, where he is continually reminded of his older...

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Overview

Fourteen-year-old, tongue-tied Jed spends Christmas break working on a school project filming a documentary about his East Village, New York City, neighborhood, where he is continually reminded of his older brother, Zeke, a promising poet who died the year before.

Fourteen-year-old, tongue-tied Jed spends Christmas break working on a school project filming a documentary about his East Village, New York City, neighborhood, where he is continually reminded of his older brother, Zeke, a promising poet who died the year before.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Eighth-grader Joseph Eli Diamond (or Jed) feels responsible for not being home when his older brother, a diabetic, went into insulin shock after drinking half a bottle of vodka, and he wonders if Zeke's death was accidental. Now Jed's having trouble speaking, and his uncommunicative family is falling apart. While making a movie about his New York City neighborhood for a school project, Jed sees many of the images his poet brother wrote about in his notebook, including a homeless girl whose "hard-soft eyes haunt my dreams." Though his growing friendship with the girl strains credibility somewhat, it does provide Jed a chance to save her in a way he couldn't save Zeke and to begin talking again. Through Jed's eyes-and camera-Mack (Drawing Lessons) paints a vivid picture of Jed's East Village neighborhood, full of characters who struggle on, despite both personal tragedies and the aftereffects of September 11. The author offers a realistic portrayal of a grieving family as well as other characters grappling with hardships, such as Jed's best friend, whose mother recently moved out. Some touches, such as Jed's younger brother's obsession with ambulances, seem scripted, and both Jed's speaking problem and Kiki's self-injuring never feel fully developed (conversely, readers may well appreciate the information on diabetes). Overall, despite a few rough edges, readers will find it easy to relate to Jed and many of the other brave characters in his corner of the world. Ages 14-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Thirteen-year-old Jed is seeking live-action video footage of New York's East Village, but in no time he finds himself chasing down a different layer of story altogether. Lines from his dead brother Zeke's poetry haunt this journey, evoking the rawness of uninvited memories and an unacknowledged guilt. Mack's swirling views of a restless city constitute both backdrop and context for Jed's grief. The changing energies of New York-water towers and sidewalks, cafes and the blinking on of evening lights-are rendered all the more real because we encounter them through the lens of the young protagonist's emerging consciousness. Here is a family unable to face the wrenching failure that Zeke's death represents to each of them, in a city that is itself coming to terms with the meaning of healing. That connection is commendably understated. The wound on the skyline is simply there, a reflection of an empty place at a table. Mack's handling of the toddler's response (play followed by an easy forgetting), is poignant and believable precisely because it is light and glancing. Jed's video-search for the city's heart slowly begins to untangle the threads of a diverse array of themes, as the tensions come together in the person of the homeless girl, Kiki. Other surprises both delight and comfort-the homage paid to emergent childhood literacy through Alice and The Carrot Seed; the power of community; and the strains of Charlie Parker from which the title is derived. Most of all this is a story about the resilience of life, that sometimes halts in a desperate stutter, but then re-gathers and goes forward, stubbornly refusing to cease. 2003, Scholastic, Ages 9 up.
— Uma Krishnaswami
KLIATT
Jed and his best friend Flyer are filming a documentary of their neighborhood, New York City's East Village, for an English assignment over Christmas break. Thirteen-year-old Jed is mourning the death of his older brother, Zeke, a fan of Charlie "Bird" Parker, who died six months ago of diabetes. He seeks out street images that illustrate Zeke's poems, jazz-like riffs on the "mad tea party" that surrounds them. When Jed meets a homeless girl who seems to have some connection to Zeke, he does his best to help her, and in the process helps to heal his own grieving heart and emotionally shattered family. Mack, author of Drawing Lessons, has created here not just an animated paean to the gritty, splendid weirdness of New York City but also a convincing portrait of a boy who has experienced loss and is searching for a way to recover. The language soars, and the characters are achingly real. A lovely novel. KLIATT Codes: J*-Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2003, Scholastic, 208p., Ages 12 to 15.
— Paula Rohrlick
VOYA
Six months after his older brother, Zeke, died, thirteen-year-old Jed can hardly find the words to express his feelings. His parents refuse to talk about Zeke, and Jed's loss of voice might be complete if not for his best friend, Flyer. When the two boys collaborate on a school assignment to tell the story of their New York neighborhood, Jed begins to see the world again through the lens of his video camera. During the week of Christmas vacation, Jed walks the streets of the East Village, finding comfort, companionship, and a creative outlet. As in her first novel, Drawing Lessons (Scholastic, 2000/VOYA April 2000), Mack's prose is lyrical and hauntingly beautiful. She uses vibrant images to illustrate Jed's world, drawing the reader's attention to everyday objects and occurrences that might normally escape notice. As Jed studies Zeke's notebook filled with poetry about the city, he finds his brother's "Ode on a Wooden Water Tower": "O lost cousin of nature and waters deep / woodland historian who cannot exude / the story of your journey here, lest we weep." With its striking language, convincing yet original characterizations, and satisfying plot resolutions, this book is to be treasured. Much like Jed at the end of the novel, Mack finds her voice here, and it is truly something to celebrate. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Scholastic, 208p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Deborah Fisher
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-Haunted by the death of his older brother, 14-year-old New York City-native Jed spends his winter break filming a documentary of his East Village neighborhood. Following clues left behind in Zeke's poetry journal, he finds himself going deep into his brother's psyche. The painful memories and emotions that surface bring Jed face-to-face with the destitute, homeless girl mentioned in one of the poems. Jed's efforts to reach out to her, and the ensuing near tragedy, galvanize his grieving parents into action and into recognizing his needs. Mack's expressively visual prose interspersed with fragments of candid poetry realistically captures the anger and frustration of a boy coping with the loss of a sibling and the possible disintegration of his family. Colorful, well-drawn characters add to the story's painful sense of realism. And while some readers may find it hard to balance Birdland's sophisticated style with its young protagonist, others will be drawn into Jed's unique and spontaneous East Village world of skateboards, sidewalk musicians, and coffee houses.-Hillias J. Martin, New York Public Library Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The setting is the star in this moving portrayal of a boy coming to terms with his brother's death set in New York's East Village. Mack reveals Joseph's story gradually: he has developed a speech impediment, his father has become withdrawn, and his Jewish family has renounced religion. Details about Zeke's life and death from diabetes are also parceled out bit by bit in a beautifully subtle manner. Joseph deals with the loss in several ways, none of which he immediately recognizes as vehicles for processing grief: creating a video documentary of the neighborhood for a school project, inspired by Zeke's poetry; befriending and ultimately saving the life of a homeless girl he believes also knew Zeke; and simply being himself with his best friend Flyer. Loss, compassion, and forgiveness are primary themes, realistically and sometimes painfully drawn through the interactions of Joseph's family. This remarkable work culminates with scenes from Joseph's documentary, signaling the end of his helplessness in the face of his grief and the beginning of his success in dealing with it. (Fiction. 12+)
From the Publisher

Voice of Youth Advocates
(February 1, 2004; 0-439-53590-5)

Six months after his older brother, Zeke, died, thirteen-year-old Jed can hardly find the words to express his feelings. His parents refuse to talk about Zeke, and Jed's loss of voice might be complete if not for his best friend, Flyer. When the two boys collaborate on a school assignment to tell the story of their New York neighborhood, Jed begins to see the world again through the lens of his video camera. During the week of Christmas vacation, Jed walks the streets of the East Village, finding comfort, companionship, and a creative outlet. As in her first novel, Drawing Lessons (Scholastic, 2000/VOYA April 2000), Mack's prose is lyrical and hauntingly beautiful. She uses vibrant images to illustrate Jed's world, drawing the reader's attention to everyday objects and occurrences that might normally escape notice. As Jed studies Zeke's notebook filled with poetry about the city, he finds his brother's Ode on a Wooden Water Tower: O lost cousin of nature and waters deep / woodland historian who cannot exude / the story of your journey here, lest we weep. With its striking language, convincing yet original characterizations, and satisfying plot resolutions, this book is to be treasured. Much like Jed at the end of the novel, Mack finds her voice here, and it is truly something to celebrate.-Deborah Fisher.

Publishers Weekly
(November 17, 2003; 0-439-53590-5)

Eighth-grader Joseph Eli Diamond (or Jed) feels responsible for not being home when his older brother, a diabetic, went into insulin shock after drinking half a bottle of vodka, and he wonders if Zeke's death was accidental. Now Jed's having trouble speaking, and his uncommunicative family is falling apart. While making a movie about his New York City neighborhood for a school project, Jed sees many of the images his poet brother wrote about in his notebook, including a homeless girl whose "hard-soft eyes haunt my dreams." Though his growing friendship with the girl strains credibility somewhat, it does provide Jed a chance to save her in a way he couldn't save Zeke and to begin talking again. Through Jed's eyes-and camera-Mack (Drawing Lessons) paints a vivid picture of Jed's East Village neighborhood, full of characters who struggle on, despite both personal tragedies and the aftereffects of September 11. The author offers a realistic portrayal of a grieving family as well as other characters grappling with hardships, such as Jed's best friend, whose mother recently moved out. Some touches, such as Jed's younger brother's obsession with ambulances, seem scripted, and both Jed's speaking problem and Kiki's self-injuring never feel fully developed (conversely, readers may well appreciate the information on diabetes). Overall, despite a few rough edges, readers will find it easy to relate to Jed and many of the other brave characters in his corner of the world. Ages 14-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Booklist
(October 15, 2003; STARRED)
Gr. 7-10. True healing, ed's English teacher declaims, begins with imagination. Buted, displaying that bedrock realism with which teens so often see through the idealistic preenings of adults, isn't quite buying it: So what if you imagine something to be healed. It's still the same broken thing, isn't it? The beauty of this rigorously unsentimental novel about a family in crisis is the way that Mack, even as she lets her characters' imaginations soar, keeps her story grounded in the pain of broken things.ed is the middle child in a family torn asunder by the death of Zeke,ed's jazz-loving older brother. To fulfill an assignment for English class,ed, with his friend, Flyer, sets out to videotape the sights and sounds of Lower East Side Manhattan, as recorded in Zeke's journals and poems. Along the way,ed encounters a mysterious homeless girl who may hold the key to

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439535915
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/1/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 208
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Tracy Mack is the author of two celebrated novels: BIRDLAND, a Book Sense Top Ten Book, a Sydney Taylor Award Honor Book, and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; and DRAWING LESSONS, a Booklist Top Ten First Novel and a Teen People NEXT Award Finalist.
Michael Citrin is an attorney and has been a Sherlock Holmes fan since he was a young boy.
Together they have written the Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars series published by Orchard Books. Tracy and Michael are married and live in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts with their three young children.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2005

    I like snow globes and 'Birdland', too.

    I picked out this book from my high school library because I like snow globes. However, as I started to read this book, I was enthralled by the wonderful personification that was given to hair, to eyes and to feeling. I love this book. I can compare the feelings of Jed to myself and my own family. It was a wonderful read and mirroring experience. This should definitely be taught in the class room and read by all.

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