Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson

Flap copy from ARC:
Meli could never have imagined the terrible news: the leader of the Kosovo Liberation Party and his entire family have been killed by Serbs, and all Albanians in Kosovo are in danger. Meli and her family must leave their store and home, taking very few of their possessions. The refugees, now including Uncle Fadil and his family, have their courage and resilience tested at every turn as they travel through the mountains and towns. At times they go without food and water; they was the dangerous roads at night and carry Granny in a wheelbarrow; they live in crowded tent cities.

This masterful tale of one girl's journey from childhood across a war-torn landscape easily stands with Paterson's body of work. Meli and her family are forced to flee their home- first to the mountains, then to a refugee camp in Macedonia, and finally to a small town in Vermont- in order to survive as Kosovo goes up in flames. Though the harsh realities of war are muted in the narrative, there are veiled references to rape, torture, and genocide that will be picked up by older readers. The strength of this story lies in its focus on what these larger world events mean to one girl already struggling to chart her path into adulthood. When Meli leaves Kosovo, she leaves her childhood behind as well.

I've lived in the region, and believe that Paterson captured the flavor of terror of the time. Not many books have been written that cover the genocides that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia; this wonderful tale will serve as an excellent entry into the time period for teen readers. Highly recommended!

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