March 24, 2015
Future rock star or friendless misfit? That’s no choice at all. In this acclaimed novel, twelve-year-old Apple grapples with being different; with friends and backstabbers; and with following her dreams. Publishers Weekly called Blackbird Fly “a true triumph,” and the Los Angeles Times Book Review said, “Apple soars like the eponymous blackbird of her favorite Beatles song.” Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to Louisiana from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show her how special she really is. Erin Entrada Kelly deftly brings Apple’s conflicted emotions to the page in her debut novel about family, friendship, popularity, and going your own way.
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This had good descriptions of cultural aspects of the Philippines that are very rare in middle grade fiction. Food, cultural expectations, the role of family-- these are always things that readers find fascinating.
Apple is a likable character who is trying her best to work through difficult situations, and Evan is the kind of student we wish all of ours would be-- he sticks up for Apple even when he doesn't know her well. There are a few students who are still interested in the Beatles, and they will be thrilled to see them referenced in a novel.
Readers who are struggling with disenfranchisement in middle school will relate to Apple's position as a social outsider, and cheer on the forces that make sure boys who came up with the "dog log" will be soundly punished. If you enjoyed books like Dowd's The Kind of Friends We Used to Be, McVoy's Drive Me Crazy and other friend dramas, Blackbird Fly is a great book with cultural context to pick up.
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