There's a lot happening in this tale of two orphans trying to make their way in a world of deeply flawed, usually well-meaning, people in the wake of their loving but mentally unstable mom's death. Nine-year-old Birdie gets unwelcome attention because he favors sparkly clothes and purple makeup, and his 12-year-old sister, Jack, is his main protector. Their emotions and vulnerability as they navigate what's often been a volatile, senseless world in search of family and stability, plus the sympathetic adults and wisecracking kids who help, make Birdie and Me a relatable, thought-provoking read that's sometimes as overwhelming to the reader as it is to the characters. Here, the kids remember their mom and their life with her:
"'I hated it when she got upset. Because then she'd disappear and it didn't matter how many times it happened, I always wondered if she'd come out of her room again.'
"'She always came out, though,' says Birdie. 'And you always made really good grilled cheese and ramen and bean burritos when she was hiding in her room.'
"'But I didn't want to do that, Birdie. I wanted her to do that. I always wanted her not to disappear.'
"'I know,' he says. 'Me too.'"