Review of Birdie and Me, by J. M. M. Nuanez

Birdie and Me

by J. M. M. Nuanez

Kathy Dawson Books (Penguin Random House), 2020. 252 pages.
Review written May 13, 2020, from a library book.

As Birdie and Me opens, a girl named Jack and her little brother Birdie have to move from Uncle Carl’s apartment to their Uncle Patrick’s home. It’s been decided that Uncle Carl isn’t responsible enough to take care of them, since he’d been letting them miss too many days of school. But Uncle Patrick’s older and doesn’t make them feel welcome. All Jack and Birdie really want to do is go back to Portland, Oregon, where they lived with their Mama.

But Mama died ten months ago, and they didn’t get to stay there in Portland with their elderly neighbor for long. To make matters worse, Birdie’s new teacher tells Uncle Patrick that Birdie is disruptive wearing skirts and sparkly purple clothes to school.

This book is about Jack figuring out how to cope with all this. She makes some plans, which don’t often go as she likes, but she makes some new connections as well.

This was a sad book to me – I don’t like that they lost their Mama. But given that context, I appreciated these characters and their realistic ways of coping. Nobody really got things right on their first try – but that was realistic, and we saw people learning and giving each other grace.

I did enjoy gender-nonconforming Birdie. When he is forced to go shopping for more conforming boys’ clothes, he decides he’s shopping for someone named Norman, who is his exact size. It’s not a perfect solution, but it does get them through the episode. Some of the ways people treated him were painful to see (and made me mad his Mama was gone), but may some kids learn empathy by seeing the situation through the eyes of his sister.

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