Bird in a Box
By Andrea Davis Pinkney, read by Bahni Turpin, S'Von Ringo, and J.B. Adkins
Published 2011 by Listening Library
It's the Depression and the mighty Joe Louis might be on his way to becoming the heavyweight champion of the world. For three kids in upstate New York, these two things may have different meetings. But Hibernia, Otis, and Willie are on a path to meet each other and find some hope along the way.
This book caught my eye when it was first released. As I've said repeatedly, I'm a sucker for historical fiction and I'm always trying to add more multicultural books to my reading list. This sounded like something I'd enjoy. So when I discovered the audio version languishing on our library's shelves, I took it for my commute. Such a fantastic choice. The book is narrated by three young people: Hibernia Lee Tyson, Otis, and Willie. All three are young and black and searching for a path to their own dreams in the middle of the Depression. Their stories play out over the background of Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber, and his quest for the heavyweight title. I thought Pinkney juxtaposed the stories all very well - I was equally engaged with each narrative and I liked the consistency of Louis's boxing matches across the stories. I'm sure reading the print version is just as good, but this book worked beautifully on audio - three different readers, all incredibly perfect for their characters. The musicality of the language really shined in the audio production - it just added a greater depth to the story. I like that this book deals with some tough subjects without being weighed down by melancholy - these kids are going through some times, but they all seem to understand the importance of keeping your chin up and persevering. The struggle to achieve one's dreams is poignantly depicted here and I really enjoyed listening to this one. Definitely recommended.