A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The afterward, author's note, glossary, and more at the end of the book provide more to explore, further explanations, and food for thought, especially about understanding and remembering the past in general and specifically the Holocaust. Encourages further study and making connections between past and current events. The story itself offers a lot of insight into France during World War II and the war's impact on people's lives. Some French words and phrases are translated; a few just have context clues.
Evil will only be stopped when good people decide to put an end to it. Never forget the tragedies of the past, and when you see injustice, speak out and fight it. Kindness, like love, stays with you forever. It always takes courage to be kind, but when being kind to others puts you in danger, it becomes a beacon of light that saves and preserves our humanity.
Positive Role Models
Sara is a great role model for patience and endurance while she's in hiding for over a year in a hayloft. She's pretty self-centered, but eventually learns empathy, gratitude, and humility as she begins to see and understand things from other points of view. Julien and his parents put themselves at great risk to hide Sara, feed her, and try to keep her spirits up while she has to hide. They're all great models of perseverance, compassion, and courage.
Violence & Scariness
Concentration camps are mentioned but not depicted, except in one photo and definition in the glossary in the back. Parental death in a concentration camp, fear of parental loss, and wartime atrocities like shooting civilians are important themes. Illustrations and story depict German soldiers shooting at civilians fleeing and show splotches and small blobs of blood on one dead body and on the backs of those running away. Another body, the victim of a wolf attack, is shown with small amounts of blood illustrated. A bully punches and causes a bloody nose; several panels show the nose bleeding and blood on the victim's clothes. Characters are in danger during Nazi roundups, and of being discovered while hiding and being taken away. Threats with guns, verbal aggression, and intimidation by Nazis and Nazi collaborators.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Mention of growing romantic feelings, blushing, and one long kiss mentioned and illustrated without details.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Once, sleeping powder is snuck into neighbor's milk so that that person won't hear or see activities having to do with keeping Sara hidden.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that White Bird: A Wonder Story is the first graphic novel by R.J. Palacio (Wonder). It continues and enlarges a story in Palacio's Auggie & Me about Julian's grandmother and her experience hiding from the Nazis during World War II in France. The Holocaust and the loss of parents and other family and friends are prominent themes. No concentration camps are depicted, but they're mentioned. Other violence includes illustrations showing blood on two dead bodies and bullet wounds in the back of civilians fleeing German soldiers. A bully shoves a kid who uses crutches to the ground, and several panels show the bloody nose and blood dripping onto his shirt and jacket. Characters are in danger of being rounded up by Nazis, or of being reported for harboring Jews, which maintains a sense of scariness and dread throughout. Important characters die. The main character as a young teen is separated from her parents and not sure whether they're alive. It's a difficult chapter in history to talk about, but messages about gratitude, empathy, perseverance, courage, and kindness prevail. And it's a good chance to talk to kids about how the Holocaust happened, why new generations need to learn about it, whether current events mirror those of the past and if so, what can be done about it. Lots of material at the end provides the historical events and people that inspired the story, more food for thought, and avenues for further exploration and study.
Is It Any Good?
Keep a tissue handy as you near the end of this moving World War II story, beautifully written and lovingly illustrated by R.J. Palacio. The author of Wonder and Auggie & Me gently but unblinkingly tells a fictional story that enfolds one of humanity's greatest tragedies in the hopeful embrace of messages about the importance of kindness and speaking out against injustice. White Bird: A Wonder Story may well raise questions about how and why the Holocaust happened that are difficult, maybe even impossible to answer or understand fully. Learning about and understanding the past so that it doesn't happen again is a central theme that, along with others, can help young readers process large-scale tragic events.
Palacio deftly weaves details about Julian's story that will be familiar to her readers, like his experience as a bully, with events in his grandmothers life -- from her complicit shunning of a classmate to her eye-opening realization that she was reviled by some not because of something she did, but because of something she was. Naturally, a story that takes place during the Holocaust has its share of tragedy and loss, which Palacio handles elegantly, but it also shows how to be a beacon of hope, how those beacons mean everything for the sake of humanity, and how readers of any age should be beacons of light themselves, whenever and however they can.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.