Article, Booktalks

Birdland Booktalk

  • Grades: 6–8

Scholastic Booktalk

Who is the neighborhood where you live?

Home. Neighborhood. ’Hood. Where we live. What is it? Who is it? What are the stories that it has to tell? Jed and Flyer are about to discover the answers to those questions, as they walk the streets of New York City, looking at it from behind the lens of Flyer’s new camera. It’s winter break, and their teacher has asked the class to use the time to look at their neighborhoods and create pictures of them. When they all get back to school in January, they'll make a collage of their vision of New York. But everywhere Jed looks, he sees images from his brother’s poetry. His parents don’t know that Jed has Zeke’s notebooks and CDs. Since Zeke’s death last summer, their family has begun to crumble, falling apart, dissolving before Jed’s eyes. And his isn’t the only family that is less than whole. Flyer’s parents have separated, and his mother lives in San Francisco now. The camera was a gift from her, but what Flyer really wants is for her to come back and patch things up with his dad. Jed is pretty sure that isn’t going to happen, but Flyer can’t give up hope.

They start by looking at the East Village, the drum player in the subway, the dog walker in the park, the water towers that top almost every building, and the soundtrack for it all, horns and whistles and voices and sirens, all blending into a symphony that sings the city. And as Jed records it all, he remembers Zeke’s words from the notebook that never leaves his side, and looks for the sights and sounds and people that his brother tried to capture in words. They are the only remaining connection to his brother, the only way Jed can solve the mystery of his death. His parents won’t talk to him about Zeke, and his father has become so distant, so involved with his work, that he almost doesn’t seem to exist any longer. So when Jed and Flyer see the homeless girl begging on the street, Jed remembers Zeke’s words

One girl is like a jack-in-the-box

Popping up on every Village street

Her hard-soft eyes haunt my dreams

Help me help me help me

Please

and knows that he has to reach out to her, and listen to the story she has to tell.

This Booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart

 

  • Subjects:
    Adolescent Issues, Death, Grief, Loss, Communities and Ways of Life, Creativity and Imagination, Curiosity, Divorce, Photography, Siblings, Friends and Friendship, Understanding Self and Others
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