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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Blackbird Fly is a debut novel about a middle school girl's struggles to fit in. As the only Filipina in her small Louisiana school, Apple endures racist and bigoted teasing. She's also on a not-so-secret list kept by the boys of the ugliest girls in school. Overall, the messages are very positive about empathy and embracing who and what you are. Boy-girl dynamics include references to making out or kissing. Apple's a big Beatles fan, and every chapter includes a song title. Strong language includes "suck" and "crappy"; "gay" and "retard" are used negatively by mean kids.
What's the story?
As the only Filipina in her small Louisiana school, sixth-grader Apple is constantly reminded of how she's different from everyone else. But she only wants two things in life: to be more "American" so she can fit in, and to learn how to play the guitar like Beatle George Harrison. Just when Apple's at the lowest point on the school's social ladder, she meets a new boy from California who doesn't think being from the Philippines is weird at all. He also doesn't care what other people think, and as he and Apple become friends, he helps her realize her dream of learning guitar and to see herself and her family background in a whole new light.
Is it any good?
In BLACKBIRD FLY, debut novelist Erin Entrada Kelly creates a warts-and-all-likable heroine whom everyone can relate to. She brings a universality to Apple's unique circumstances by letting the reader inside Apple's head and heart to understand the isolation she feels at school from being different and the frustration she feels at home for not being understood and supported by her mother.
The plot mostly involves middle school social drama, with some mistakes Apple makes on the way to learning guitar seeming to go on forever, making the ending feel arbitrary. But kids are unlikely to notice and mostly will enjoy rooting for Apple as she discovers she can feel comfortable in her own skin.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stereotypes. What do some of the kids believe about Apple because she's from the Philippines? How does that make Apple feel?
Why are books about middle school so popular? What's important about that time in a kid's life?
Do you have a talent or passion like Apple's talent and passion for guitar? What is it? Do you think it runs in your family?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.