Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets [NOOK Book]

Overview

2014 Morris Award finalist

“I hate myself but I love Walt Whitman, the kook. Always positive. I need to be more positive, so I wake myself up every morning with a song of myself.” Sixteen-year-old James Whitman has been yawping (à la Whitman) at his abusive father ever since he kicked his beloved older sister, Jorie, out of the house. James’s painful struggle with anxiety and depression—along with his ongoing quest to understand what led to his self-destructive sister’s exile—make for a heart-rending read, but ...

See more details below
Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.49
BN.com price
(Save 38%)$16.99 List Price

Overview

2014 Morris Award finalist

“I hate myself but I love Walt Whitman, the kook. Always positive. I need to be more positive, so I wake myself up every morning with a song of myself.” Sixteen-year-old James Whitman has been yawping (à la Whitman) at his abusive father ever since he kicked his beloved older sister, Jorie, out of the house. James’s painful struggle with anxiety and depression—along with his ongoing quest to understand what led to his self-destructive sister’s exile—make for a heart-rending read, but his wild, exuberant Whitmanization of the world and keen sense of humor keep this emotionally charged debut novel buoyant.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—James Whitman tries to adopt the spirit of Walt Whitman, loving nature and sounding a loud YAWP to show proof of his existence, but he is having a rough time keeping his poetic chin up lately. His older sister, Jorie, has been expelled from their high school and his abusive parents throw her out of their house. James is feeling guilty about not standing up for her and is depressed about his own life. He is the kind of teen who will run into traffic to try and save an injured bird, but he's also an introspective poet who has frequent suicidal thoughts. His own internal therapist is a pigeon he calls Dr. Bird, and since James is a smart guy, she offers good advice. But since James is also, as he puts it, "wired funny," he does not always listen to Dr. Bird. Since he lives in his head so much, the novel's pace can be a bit slow. Roskos perfectly captures the voice of a teen, but this boy is unbelievably self-aware. Readers only see tiny bits of his parents through his eyes. This is problematic, as James is not the most reliable of narrators, but that certainly adds to readers' empathy. Although Jorie cuts herself and James has suicidal thoughts, the narrative points in a slightly more positive direction for them both by the end as James is able to confront his parents and demand their assistance in getting him help.—Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT
Publishers Weekly
This sensitive first novel portrays the struggle of 16-year-old James Whit-man to overcome anxiety and depression. James blames himself for his older sister’s expulsion from their home and estrangement from their bullying parents. Roskos effectively sketches James as a boy who is far more comfortable inside his own head than in connecting with others (case in point, he hugs trees to make himself feel better and seeks advice from Dr. Bird, an imaginary pigeon therapist). Throughout, James takes comfort in the poetry of Walt Whitman, often co-opting the writer’s literary techniques in his narration (“I sound my morning yawp! I blast out my inner glow at the sunshine to try to shout it down. To have it lift me up. For someone, somewhere, to see me”). Friendships old and new, along with James’s growing interest in his own poetry and photography, help him gain confidence and understanding, especially as he discovers unsettling secrets about his sister. Bravely facing real sorrow, James confronts his problems with grace and courage. Ages 14–up. Agent: Sara Crowe, Harvey Klinger. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"Roskos has created a character that does not necessarily change throughout the book, but learns to live with himself as he is, to celebrate himself and those around him even as flawed as they are."
VOYA, 4Q 3P S

"Self-deprecating humor abounds in this debut novel that pulls no punches about the experience of depression and anxiety for its teen protagonist . . . Captivating introspection from a winning character."
Kirkus, starred review

"Author Roskos's strength lies in his refusal to tidy up the mess in James's life and in his relentless honesty about surviving with depression and anxiety."
Horn Book

"Roskos effectively sketches James as a boy who is far more comfortable inside his own head than in connecting with others . . . Bravely facing real sorrow, James confronts his problems with grace and courage."
Publishers Weekly

"Roskos' first novel is rich with hilarity and realistic inner dialogue . . . Give this darkly funny debut to fans of Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower."
Booklist

"Roskos perfectly captures the voice of a teen."
School Library Journal

"Many teen readers will recognize their own mood swings as they are amplified through James' pendulum, and they'll be enlightened by his revelation that life can be possible and rewarding even when it's really hard."
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Children's Literature - Veronica Bartles
James Whitman is depressed. His parents are abusive, physically and emotionally, he doesn't have many friends, and his sister, Jorie, has been kicked out of school and out of the house. James copes with his horrible life by reciting Walt Whitman, hugging trees and talking to an imaginary bird therapist, because he can't afford a real one, and his parents refuse to pay for therapy. As James struggles with his guilt over failing to defend his sister and attempts to convince his parents and the school administration to let her come back, he discovers that he and Jorie are a lot alike. Roskos paints a clear and honest picture of the helpless haze of depression, seen through James' eyes, and readers will experience the emotional blandness that comes with this mental illness. However, the lack of depth and emotion makes it difficult to care about James' struggle, and readers who haven't personally experienced the pain of depression might find it difficult to connect to his story. Reviewer: Veronica Bartles
Kirkus Reviews
Self-deprecating humor abounds in this debut novel that pulls no punches about the experience of depression and anxiety for its teen protagonist. The words of Walt Whitman provide solace for 16-year-old James, whose mental health struggles are exacerbated by living with abusive parents and agonizing over what he could have done differently to prevent his older sister, Jorie, from being thrown out of the house. James' intense first-person narration, which includes imagined therapy sessions with a pigeon he calls Dr. Bird, both flares with frenetic silliness and sinks heavily into despair, realistically depicting his mood swings. At times contemplating suicide, he's aware of the gravity of his situation, even as his parents react with heartbreaking ambivalence: "Therapy isn't what you need....You're just at that age where you think everything is so horrible and terrible." His self-awareness makes him an enormously sympathetic character. Readers will root for him to win over Beth, the editor of his school's literary magazine, and forgive him for going over the top ("I know that they're all just going to pretend like I'm not here trying to tear the walls down with my fucking barbaric yaawwwwwppppp!") when he rages at a woman who has been carrying on an affair, with his best friend Derek, behind the back of her fiance. Captivating introspection from a winning character. (Fiction. 14 & up)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780544035652
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/5/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 103,896
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • File size: 295 KB

Meet the Author

Evan Roskos’s story “Conspiracy of Males” was chosen by Granta for their New Voices online feature. Narrative named him one of their 20 Best New Writers. He has had stories in Best Fiction, StoryQuarterly, The Hummingbird Review, and other journals. He attended the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference and completed his MFA at Rutgers University Newark in 2009. Visit his website at evanroskos.blogspot.com.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

1.

I YAWP MOST MORNINGS to irritate my father, the Brute.

"Yawp! Yawp!" It moves him out of the bathroom faster.

He responds with the gruff "All right." He dislikes things that seem like fun.

I do not yawp like Walt Whitman for fun. Ever since the Brute literally threw my older sister Jorie out of the house, I yawp at him because he hates it. My father says reciting Walt Whitman is impractical, irrational. My father says even reading Walt Whitman is a waste of time, despite the fact that we share his last name. My father says Walt Whitman never made a dime, which is not true. I looked it up. Not just on Wikipedia but in a book that also said Walt used to write reviews for Leaves of Grass—his own book!—under fake names.

Who does that? Walt does!

The perfect poet for me. I’m a depressed, anxious kid.

I hate myself but I love Walt Whitman, the kook. I need to be more positive, so I wake myself up every morning with a song of my self.

Walt says:

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good

belongs to you.

I say:

I am James Whitman.

I define myself and answer the question that was asked with my momentous birth!

I am light! I am truth! I am might! I am youth!

I assume myself and become what you assume!

I leap from my bed, bedraggled but lively! Vigorous, not slowpoked and sapped with misery (despite my eyes and aching teeth, which grind all night)!

I bathe, washing the atoms that belong to me but are not me.

I brush my teeth. Away! Away! Gummy grime of six hours’ sleep! Six hours of troubled dreams will not slow my hands as they scrunch my cowlicked hair into an acceptable—no, vital—posture!

I adorn a bright shirt—sunburst of red on white, a meaningless pattern. But so is a sunset! So are clouds! I choose low-cut socks and cargo shorts with enough pockets to carry all my secrets.

It is April, the first warm day of the year, a day where I can loaf and lounge and contemplate a spear of grass lying in my palm. A day when the sun has to work hard to burn off the mildew of a dillydallying winter that beat me to a pulp. A day when I forget depression, forget my beaten and banished sister, Jorie, living alone somewhere. A day to YAWP! out across the moist air of the park on my way to school. I do not mind the grass tickling my ankles. I do not mind the chill because I have my old green hoodie infused with the musk of the prior fall, the dander in the hood, the history of sweat!

Ah, my self!

I sing through the park, greeting trees, stopping beneath them to stare at the way the morning sky filters through the newborn leaves.

I chitter at squirrels, who celebrate themselves.

"Hello, my nutty friends!"

Contemplating my demeanor, they hold their tiny paws to their mouths. But I need to keep walking, to keep moving, to get to school before my mood falls apart.

Walt says:

Dazzling and tremendous how quick the sun-rise

would kill me,

If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of

me.

Some days I feel like I’m on the verge of supernova-ing.

Other days I’m a leaf of grass.

Every day I miss my sister, expelled from home and school with just a few months left. No prom, no graduation, no celebration, no gifts. A metaphorical footprint on her ass after years of literal bruises on her body put there by my mother, the Banshee, and my father, the Brute. I loafed in my room while she raged on the front lawn, cursing the very house for the miserable nails that held it together to protect me and my mother and yawp-hating father.

***

I hug trees, dozens on especially bad mornings when the walk to Charles Cheeseman High School feels long and insufferable.

When I hug trees, the bark marks my cheek and reminds me I’m alive. Or that my nervous system is still intact. The trees breathe all the time and no one really notices. They take in the air we choke on. They live and die in silence. So I hug them. Someone should.

When people see me hugging an old maple tree in the park, they probably think I’m a kook. I am okay with that, though I’d prefer they not let me know what they think of me. Let me be, I ask.

Like Walt says: I cannot say to any person what I hear . . . . I cannot say it to myself . . . . it is very wonderful.

I also hug trees to apologize to them. When I was in fourth grade, Jorie and I threw chunks of scrap bricks at a dogwood tree. Brick can really do some damage. Tears the thick skin right off and exposes pale tree flesh. When we stopped for a moment to collect the larger brick bits, my sister looked real close at what we did and said she felt horrible.

"The tree is crying!" she said.

"A tree’s a tree," I said, ready to adjust my technique for some real damage. "It can’t feel anything."

But Jorie said that just because the tree couldn’t feel or speak or think didn’t mean we should throw bricks at it. She left me in the backyard. I spent an hour trying to put bark back on the vulnerable tree.

2.

ANOTHER TERRIBLE HIGH SCHOOL DAY awaits, though I’m calm after embracing four trees that will outlive me. As I step out of the park onto the pale sidewalk, I see Beth King across the street. The sight of her reminds me what a girl in a spring-friendly outfit looks like: wonderful. (Imagine butterflies so drawn in by a bright flower that they forget how to fly; that’s the feeling I get from Beth in her warm-weather outfit.)

I pause to hug one last tree before jaywalking. I want Beth to notice me but not the crazy part of me. So, I keep my hand on the tree trunk and let her move ahead so I can follow her.

As we walk, I see a bird in the street. It’s not flying away, and I know birds tend to hop a lot when scrounging for food. This one flaps one little wing like it’s injured. I look at the bird and at Beth and back at the bird. For a moment I think it would be awesome if she noticed the bird and showed some kind of concern, but she’s texting on her phone very intently.

A car passes and I cringe—but it misses the bird, who flaps its wing frantically. I need to save the bird! No one else notices these things!

If I can grab the sparrow (or finch or swallow) and get it to the other side of the street, then Beth will see I’m a sensitive, bird-loving man! Huzzah! A heroic grab of the bird and a well-timed "Yawp!" will win her heart!

I jog at the perfect angle so that I can grab the bird, dodge oncoming traffic, and arrive light-footed on the opposite curb. Maybe even a somersault! This will be the greatest how-we-met story ever!

I dart into the street and make a quick grab for the critter. I need to hurry to get through the lane and over to the other sidewalk, so Beth can cheer me and hug me and appreciate the acrobatic Olympic double-roll hop I’ve just somehow initiated.

I’m airborne!

I’m really a superhero!

I think I’ve been hit by a bus!

The horizon flips around—twice, I think. The bird crumples in my hand. Suddenly I cannot see clearly. I hold on to the bird but lots of things hurt.

The diesel smell of the bus is the smell of my shame. The kids on the bus are laughing at me. I know none of them thinks this is a serious issue. The bus driver comes out and screeches at me.

"What the heck are you doing?! Running out in front of me? How’d you miss a big yellow bus?"

I hold up the bird.

"I was saving a bird."

The bird’s not struggling to flee my grip. The bird might be dead!

"That’s a damn Tastykake wrapper, you idiot!"

So it is. I look over and Beth is gone. She didn’t see me almost die. Or she did and didn’t think it was that important.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(4)

4 Star

(2)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2013

    AN excellent read that's so much funnier than a book about depre

    AN excellent read that's so much funnier than a book about depression and anxiety could ever be!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2014

    I absolutely loved this book. I fell in love with the character

    I absolutely loved this book. I fell in love with the character and felt everything he was feeling. The book really flowed. A beautiful read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2013

    James Whitman is a troubled teen whose way of dealing with a dre

    James Whitman is a troubled teen whose way of dealing with a dreadful home life isn't to head down some slippery slope of self-destruction, but to hug trees, find solace in the poetry of Walt (namesake) Whitman - and to get advice from his Inner Therapist, who happens to be...a bird.

    Dr. Bird, an invention born of James's angst, is a big part of what makes him such a lovable character. His first-person narrative is full of brilliant flashes of humor, which on the surface of it, soften the angst of his situation. I say "on the surface" because for me, the effect was actually to bring the coldness of James's home life into sharper relief, his intelligence and wit making him a more credible witness to it. He's not infallible (is any good protagonist?), but he is sincere and believable. Kudos to author Evan Roskos for striking that balance.

    A few human relationships help James on his journey - one being with big sis Jorie, who's left home and school for reasons that don't become entirely clear till the final chapters. But James's biggest ally is his own determination to heal. Despite his pain, he never comes across as whiny or tragic. He's a wonderful example for kids to find their own brand of quirky genius to help them through similar struggles.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2013

    Need advice tap this

    Go to the 14 result words of advice-21

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 21, 2013

    A Beautifully Sad and Encouraging Novel Don¿t you just love it

    A Beautifully Sad and Encouraging Novel

    Don’t you just love it when you open a book and it draws you in so completely that you’re loathe to close it for any reason? Evan Roskos has written such a book. The characters and pacing grab the reader and don’t let go.

    Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets is filled with conflict, crisis and ultimate resolution. However, you shouldn’t expect a pretty little bow at the end. Life often hands us things we don’t understand and we must learn to deal with that reality.

    James Whitman is a character that I easily identified with. I suffered from depression and anxiety as a teenager and didn’t know what was happening most of the time. James is much more self-aware than I was.

    He’s quirky in an endearing way. His coping mechanisms are creative and at times funny. He’s a tree hugger. Literally. Hugging trees makes him feel better. I love that about him.

    The secondary characters are well-rounded adding to the realistic feel of the story. We see all of them change to a degree. James though, he matures and learns along the way. It’s beautiful to witness.

    The plot is well planned; drops of information reveal a world of pain. Each revelation pulls James further from his cocoon and instead of shutting down he learns to face the world. I admire this character.

    Whitman poetry and an imaginary bird for a therapist are just spices added to a beautifully sad and encouraging novel. I highly recommend it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)