The Ever-After Bird (Great Episodes Series) by Ann Rinaldi, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
The Ever-After Bird (Great Episodes Series)
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The Ever-After Bird (Great Episodes Series)

3.5 2
by Ann Rinaldi

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Now that her father is dead, CeCe McGill is left to wonder why he risked his life for the ragged slaves who came to their door in the dead of night. When her uncle, an ornithologist, insists she accompany him to Georgia on an expedition in search of the rare scarlet ibis, CeCe is surprised to learn there's a second reason for their journey: Along the way, Uncle


Now that her father is dead, CeCe McGill is left to wonder why he risked his life for the ragged slaves who came to their door in the dead of night. When her uncle, an ornithologist, insists she accompany him to Georgia on an expedition in search of the rare scarlet ibis, CeCe is surprised to learn there's a second reason for their journey: Along the way, Uncle Alex secretly points slaves north in the direction of the Underground Railroad.

Set against the backdrop of the tumultuous pre-Civil War South, The Ever-After Bird is the story of a young woman's education about the horrors of slavery and the realization about the kind of person she wants to become.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
CeCe McGill has watched a steady trail of slaves come to her father’s door seeking assistance as they attempt to escape to freedom. She does not understand why her father risks so much to help them. When her father is killed, CeCe reluctantly joins her Uncle Alex on his expedition South in search of a rare scarlet ibis. Slaves call this bird the “Ever-After” bird because they believe once they see it, they will be free. On their journey into the south, CeCe experiences the reality of slavery up close. She must participate in a charade to keep her uncle and his assistant Earline safe. CeCe’s horror at the treatment of slaves becomes personal when she attempts to intervene and is brutalized herself. Can she escape and offer help to the people whose plight she now understands so well? The fast paced, compelling narrative describes the journey of slaves to the safe harbor of the Underground Railroad and of CeCe’s better understanding of her father and of herself. Reviewer: Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger
School Library Journal

Gr 6-9
CeCe McGill is 13 when her abolitionist father dies at the hands of a slave owner, and she wonders why he risked his life to hide runaway slaves. Now an orphan, she accompanies her Uncle Alex, a doctor and ornithologist, on a trip south, seeking the rare scarlet ibis. The slaves call it the Ever-After Bird because they say "when they sight it they will be free ever after." As the journey progresses, CeCe is disturbed to find that her uncle is secretly directing slaves north to the Underground Railroad. Through a first-person narrative, she reveals her uncertainty and fear as she remembers the events surrounding her father's death but as she travels, she realizes that she must find the courage to stand up against injustices she witnesses. With richly drawn characters and vivid descriptions of antebellum Georgia, Rinaldi gives a gripping account of the horrors of slavery and the struggle for survival. An author's note provides insight into the development of the plot, the historical background of the characters, and the significance of the birds' offering happiness and hope in the midst of tragic conditions.
—Denise MooreCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
In 1851, 13-year-old CeCe McGill accompanies her Uncle Alex, a doctor, ornithologist and abolitionist, on a trip from Pennsylvania to Georgia in search of the rare scarlet ibis to paint for a new book and to guide slaves to the Underground Railroad. It's a dramatic tale: an adventure, an eyewitness account of the horrors of slavery and the story of a young girl's growing strength and resolve to do what's right. However, the novel is rooted in unlikely and implausible history. Freedom quilts are likely folklore, and Rinaldi uses them as part of Uncle Alex's work and includes the controversial Hidden in Plain View (1999) as her one source on the quilts, with no discussion in the author's note. The tropical scarlet ibis would have been exceedingly rare, unlikely to have been found, let alone widely known by the slaves and referred to as the Ever-After Bird (for its promise of freedom to those who see it). It seems Rinaldi is creating myth here, when the real history is dramatic enough. (author's note, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Great Episodes Series
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.80(d)
630L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I try not to think of that morning in May of this year of 1851. It is muddled in my brain anyway, maybe because I choose to leave it muddled. I did not see it all, I tell myself. I was upstairs in my room in our rambling white farmhouse, sent upstairs by Papa because I sassed Aunt Susan Elizabeth. She was Papa’s aunt, getting on in years and in grouchiness.

She drove me to distraction and I would have given anything to be away from her, from that house, yes, even from Papa, who had few words of cheerfulness for me since the day I was born and fewer yet since he’d become involved with his abolitionist doings, which seemed like forever now.

He went about those doings with an obsession.

There was always a quilt on the front wooden fence to show we were a safe house for runaways. I know because I put them there for Aunt Susan Elizabeth.

We had five of those quilts, and the ones on the fence were constantly changed.

The quilts said things.

Each one had a different message. What, I don’t know because I could never quite learn the differences. It had to do with the square knots left visible on the front, which Aunt Susan Elizabeth said was usually the sign of shoddy workmanship.

But not with these quilts. These square knots were left on the front on purpose.

The quilts each had a set number of square knots. She must have explained to me a dozen times the many things those knots meant. But I never got it. Which made her call me “dense.”

I hated those quilts because I was always having to work on one. That morning I was working on a wagon wheel pattern, which Aunt Susan Elizabeth said signaled the slaves to pack everything that would go into a wagon or that could be used in transit.

“Why can’t they just be told?” I asked her. It wasn’t so much the words I said as how I said them.

That’s when Papa sent me to my room.

“No soul,” he said to me, “you’ve got no soul. For this your mother gave her life when you were born. No soul.”

He’d been saying a lot of things like that to me lately, because I refused to get involved with his abolitionist doings. I couldn’t understand him risking his life for all those negroes who came to our door in the middle of the night looking like something the cat dragged in.

Two nights before he’d taken in two runaways from the Harris plantation in Buckstown, Maryland, a state part slave and part free.

They’d had enough of old Mr. Josiah Harris’s cruelty.

We live in the small town of Christiana, Pennsylvania, on the Maryland border. My name is Cecelia McGill. Papa’s name is John. Runaway negroes know we’re a station on the Underground Railroad.

It was a bright morning, about ten o’clock. I was sitting on my bed, wondering how long I’d have to stay there, when I heard horses ride up. I went to look out the window.

It was Mr. Harris and he had his two mangy sons with him. I pushed the window open so I could hear. Harris was waving around a paper, which apparently was some kind of a writ. “Signed under the new Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, McGill,” I heard him yell. “Gives me the right to cross over into another state and pursue and take back the runaways.”

My father said something; I didn’t hear what. The Harrises got off their horses and headed for the house. I heard my father tell them to wait outside, then he must have come in and gone to the secret hiding place under the parlor and brought the slaves up, because he’s nothing if not a law-abiding man, my father. He brought them outside.

Then more men rode up. I recognized the Wallers, Quakers from the area. More trouble. I don’t know why people have to force their beliefs on everybody else, why they just can’t practice them and leave others alone.

Right off the Quakers started with the thees and thous, challenging the legality of the whole thing. An argument started. It got loud. Soon there was pushing and shoving. One of the Harrises fired his gun in the air. The horses jumped and got antsy. Then more guns went off.

It all happened very fast. And of a sudden I saw my papa fall on the ground and the Harrises mount their horses and gallop away and the Quakers mount their horses, and for all their thees and thous pay no attention to my father but take the slaves on the horses behind them and whisk them off. Likely in the direction of the next safe house and on to Canada.

And I, who have no soul, went downstairs to see if my father was alive or dead.

Copyright © 2007 by Ann Rinaldi

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Meet the Author

ANN RINALDI is an award-winning author best known for bringing history vividly to life. She lives in central New Jersey.

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