It’s Battle of the Books Friday. This book, The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson is not on the current list, but has been recommended for the 2011-2012 school year.
Description: Meli Lleshi is convinced that her drawing of a pelican resembling her teacher started it all. Meli’s family are Albanians living in Kosovo, a country trying to fight off Serbian oppressors. On the day of the pelican, Meli’s brother Mehmet is abducted by the Serbian police, mistreated and dumped in the wilderness. This event starts a landslide of events with devastating effects on the family. Suddenly they are refugees driven from their homes and simply looking for a way to survive. After spending time in a refugee camp, the family is immigrated to America. Life in America is not that easy. Meli’s parents seem unable to learn the language, Meli has a difficult time finding friends, and Mehmet seems even more brooding and angry than before. Things get worse after 9-11 when many look upon the family with suspicion because they are Muslim.
I struggled with this book. I love Katherine Paterson’s writing, but I was concerned that perhaps this was another “serious” book that educators felt it would be good for children to read. The writing is Paterson’s usual quality job. And it is indeed serious. Yet, it manages to get across the serious nature of the War in Kosovo without being overly violent. Paterson uses great skill to communicate Meli’s fears and anger at her situation. I liked the book. I probably would have enjoyed the book more if I had just been reading it because I wanted to read it and not because I was trying to decide if it should replace one of the books already on the Battle of the Books list.
Should this book added to the Battle of the Books list? There are few things to consider before answering that question. There is already one book by Paterson on the list. And Newbery winner Number the Stars, currently on the list, has a similar war/refugee theme. However, The Day of the Pelican is about a more contemporary event. I will reserve my answer until I have read the other books recommended for the 2011-2012 list.
Recommended for grades 5 – 8th.
Mrs. Archer’s rating 4 of 5.