Title: Birdie and Me
Author: J.M.M. Nuanez
Genre: Realistic Middle-Grade Fiction
Number of Pages: 304
One of the things that drew me to this book was it’s absolutely gorgeous cover art, and in this case judging a book by it’s cover turned out to be a win. Birdie and Me is absolutely lovely novel and I think adults can get just as much out of it as kids, if not more. The novel follows two children, Jack (a girl) and Birdie (a boy.) When their mentally ill mother dies, they move in with a fun uncle who nonetheless doesn’t have his bolts screwed in too tight. Then they end up with their other uncle, who seems no fun at all and barely even speaks to them.
He also doesn’t approve of Birdie’s feminine appearance and demeanor, instead encouraging him to act like more of a ‘boy’ and conform to the expectations of his peers. Throughout the book, Birdie neither identifies as gay or transgender. He just likes what he likes and his interests tend dramatically towards the ‘girly’ side of things. He’s comfortable with himself and his sister loves and accepts him whole-heartedly, but other people find his behavior strange and try to put a label on him.
One thing I loved about this book was how believable all the characters were. Their behavior was more nuanced than you’d see in a lot of books written for adults and they all seemed like they could be real people with a combination of strengths and flaws. Jack and Birdie were both endearing characters and I really loved their strong sibling relationship.
Although this book doesn’t make any excuses for prejudiced behavior, it also shows shades of gray in people’s reaction to gender nonconformity. I think the author really nailed the mixed messages people send to kids about ‘being themselves,’ when being themselves can get them beat up but assimilating can break their spirit in the long run. In case anyone can’t tell by my glowing review, I really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait to see what this author will put out next.
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