- Grades: 6–8
About this book
Awards: National Book Award
Subject Area: Language Arts
Reading Level: 6.1
Like many 13-year-old girls in India, Koly is engaged to be married. However, what Koly never dreams of is that she will be a widow in that very same year. When her sickly husband dies, Koly is left without any rights, sentenced to a life of hunger, loneliness, and servitude to her cruel mother-in-law.
Just as Koly begins to accept the hardships of her existence, her life once again takes a devastating turn. Young Koly is stranded in a city of unwanted widows who must wander the streets for hours begging for food. On the edge of starvation, Koly finds the strength and courage she needs to survive. Blending together the ancient traditions of her village life and a newfound independence, Koly weaves together a new existence.
Through the aid of Homeless Bird , students will learn about symbolism.
Standard: Student produces a response that supports a judgment through reference to text.
- Show students pictures of common symbols:
A white dove
A fist in the air
- Ask what each symbol means. Why was this symbol used? Ask students if they can think of other common symbols.
- Ask students to create symbols to represent themselves.
- Old white linen or brown paper
Students will create a quilt that depicts moments throughout the book where Koly shows courage. This activity should be done when students have finished the novel.
- Read aloud to students from the book: "My first quilt was stitched as I worried about my marriage to Hari, the second in sorrow at Hari's death; Chandra's quilt was stitched to celebrate her happiness."
- Show students pictures of tapestries and quilts that tell a story. You may want to find pictures of AIDS quilts and discuss those images.
- Have students locate in the book the images she used for each quilt she made.
- Ask students:Why does she make these quilts?
- Tell students that they will be making a paper quilt to commemorate the points in the book where Koly showed great courage and strength of character.
- Have each student identify three places in the story in which Koly shows strength of character and explain what image(s) they would chose to represent this point of the story and why.
Quotes that show courage
Image to symbolizes this
Why I chose that image
Have each student create a tapestry depicting Koly's courage, using either old white linen or brown paper. They should include a separate written piece that explains their tapestry and what it represents.
Follow-up Activity or Homework
- Decorate the classroom with quilts. Have students switch quilts and guess what scene is illustrated through the scenes.
Discussion questions to consider:
- From where does Koly get her strength?
- How is Koly powerless when living with her in-laws? How does she gain back some of her power?
Have students explain why Koly stitches a "homeless bird" flying home for her last quilt. What is she trying to say about her life through this image?
- Have students create a quilt for their own life. What events will you choose to depict in your own life.
Other Books to Compare/Contrast (Theme: Courageous female protagonists struggling to survive)
Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind
By Suzanne Fisher Staples
The story of a Pakistani girl growing up in the Cholistan Desert and the hardships she must face.
Island of the Blue Dolphins
By Scott O'Dell
Karena, a young Indian girl, is stranded on an island for 18 years.
By Scott O'Dell
A young colonial girl is orphaned after the deaths of her father and brother, and must survive on her own during the American Revolution.
She Flew No Flags
By Joan B. Manley
During World War II, a young girl narrates her expedition from India to the United States aboard a U.S. troopship.
By Virginia Hamilton
Follows the story of Buhlaire, a 12-year-old mixed-race girl, and her search to uncover the truth about her father and her own identity.
By Pam Muñoz Ryan
Based on a true story, this novel describes the life of Charlotte "Charley" Darkey Parkhurst, an orphan and a tomboy, who eventually became the first woman to vote in a U.S. election, in 1868.
Other Books by Gloria Whelan
Once on This Island
Farewell to the Island
The Indian School
Miranda's Last Stand
Teaching Plan written by Gabrielle Nidus.