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The Milk of Birds

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  285 ratings  ·  81 reviews
This timely, heartrending novel tells the moving story of a friendship between two girls: one an American teen, one a victim of the crisis in Darfur.

Know that there are many words behind the few on this paper...

Fifteen-year-old Nawra lives in Darfur, Sudan, in a camp for refugees displaced by the Janjaweed’s trail of murder and destruction. Nawra cannot read or write, but
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 16th 2013 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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April 2013 YA FICTION
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,397)
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Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
3.5 Stars

In The Milk of Birds, Sylvia Whitman touches on subject matter rarely seen in YA fiction, and I want to applaud her for that. This novel deals with tough subjects (divorce, genocide, rape, learning disorders, and more), but retains an overarching sense of hope. On closing the finishing page, I was sad that this our world, but also touched by the inspiring story within. Whitman handles all of this well, keeping the focus small, on the daily lives of these two girls, Nawra in Darfur and K
Book lovers know the feeling: every once in a while, you find a book that you can't put down or get out of your head. It is so profoundly wonderful that you want to put it on the list of required reading for the world because every single living person needs to read it. This is one of those books.
I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of Sylvia Whitman's "The Milk of Birds," and I loved it. The book is told from alternating perspectives: Nawra, a 14-year-old Sudanese girl in an inte
This was a special book. I think it offers a genuine view into the life of female Sudanese refugees (or IDPs)--if I'm mistaken forgive my ignorance. What I was most moved by was Nawra's journey, her strength and sadness and fear and brilliance and honesty. And KC was much more endearing than I first expected; having her difficulties be learning oriented (as well as economic to a degree) was a smart move rather than a spoiled well to do girl who sees the light.

Possibly the most value comes from
Too often, in young adult novels the characters have it too easy: they are white most of the time. They rarely have to think about how their parents are going to pay for something; money is just there. They usually live in the first world. Their parents are often not in the picture; they’ve checked out, somehow. In too many YA novels the characters have only the slightest of conflicts, antagonists or problems.

None of that is happily true of The Milk of Birds. In this double narrative/ epistemolo
Diane S.
I remember when I was younger, ,y mom would take my sister and I to the dentist and in his office he would have the Highlight Magazine. Anyway in this magazine there would be a list of children who wanted pen pals. It was a pretty big thing back then, but it was only listings of the children in the United States. In this book an aid society asked for volunteers for pen pals and a small stipend to send to them, and American children were paired up with refuges living in camps. This is how K. C. a ...more
Hmmmm. I read this book because it was an Amelia Walden finalist and I hadn't heard of it before. And while I admire the fact that Sylvia Whitman did do quite a bit of research in order to write this book, I just don't quite know if it was her story to tell. I'm probably too critical, having read this right after taking a course on critical multiculturalism, but I didn't love it. My favorite part was actually the Author's Note and I will say that if this book inspires teens to take social action ...more
Two sections of the book where I stopped, reread and paused:

p.138, written by Nawra about an ultrasound:
"How is Mrs. Clay? Has she delivered her girl? Adeeba is very pleased to learn the word for the picture of the baby inside. Saida Julie told her it means the writing of the sound. I do not understand how what we can hear becomes what we can see, and yet that is the way of writing, too."

p.208, written by K.C.:
"Here when we draw family trees, we always put ME at the base of the trunk and all of
Full review at:

This is a special book. First, because of the characters who tell the story. K.C. is a young girl with learning disabilities which have caused her to hate reading, writing, and school. Nawra is a refugee in Darfur who continues to have an optimistic view of the world even after she has been surrounded by horrors that I can’t even imagine. Both of these girls are not represented very often in books, and they are both so important to know. Th
Ms. Yingling
Both K.C. and Nawra have problems. K.C.'s parents are divorced, her older brother is obnoxious, and she struggles in school so much that her mother wants to have her tested. Nawra lives in Darfur, so her problems include several family members who have died, a crippled mother who won't talk, and a pregnancy resulting from a violent rape. The two exchange letters as part of a Save the Girls program, from which Nawra receives money her family desperately needs. K.C. is reluctant to write at first, ...more
Writing letters to a 14-year-old girl living in a Sudanese refugee camp helps a teen in Richmond, Virginia become more compassionate and learn important life lessons.

Minor quibbles:

The passages narrated by Nawra, the Sudanese teen, contain many unfamiliar words. For the most part, the meanings can be gleaned from the context, but some terms appear multiple times before the meaning is explained (or before the narrative provides enough information for the reader to deduce the definition). A gloss
May 29, 2013 Cath rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: ya
4.5 stars.

You should read this book.

Don't be afraid of the big issues it covers, don't be afraid of Nawra's devastating past and present, because this book will actually leave you feeling hopeful.

One of the things I appreciated the most about this book, were all the parallels between K. C. and Nawra's personalities and stories. Neither one live with their father, they both love children, they have best friends who are more learned than they are, they are natural leaders (although they don't real
Shirley Freeman
This is an amazing, soon-to-be-published, YA novel. I couldn't put it down. The subject matter is tough - I wouldn't recommend it for anyone younger than 14. The story is told primarily in the form of letters written during the 2008-09 school year. Nawra is a young Sudanese girl living in a refugee camp. She has witnessed and been subject to unspeakable horrors. K.C. is a young American girl with some learning differences and some family challenges. They are connected as pen pals through a ficti ...more
Edward Sullivan
A story about the bond that develops between two pen pals, an American teen named K.C. and a fourteen-year-old Sudanese refugee Nawra. I found Nawra's harrowing daily struggles to survive far more interesting than K.C.'s experiences which seem quite frivolous by comparison. I often became annoyed with K.C. and her issues because they are so completely trivial compared to Nawra's, although she does become a passionate activist for Darfur. Perhaps reading this will help American teens put their ow ...more
Alex Templeton
2014 was a kind of "eh" year bookwise for me, especially disappointing as I had much less time to read, due to a combination of new baby and new job. Happily, this book caps an entire January of 4 and 5 star books, which bodes well for this year! (Greater pickiness will also help.) Anyway, this book is about two girls: K.C., a Richmond, VA native struggling with a learning disability, and Nawra, a Sudanese refugee in a camp in Darfur. K.C. and Nawra correspond through an imagined charity, a corr ...more
In Darfur, 14-yr. old Narwa is trying to survive in a refugee camp, with her best friend Adeeba and her mother, who no longer speaks. When an organization called Save The Girls comes in, they offer to provide some token financial support supported by U.S. sponsors. In return, the girls must become pen pals with a U.S. teen for one year.

In Richmond, Va, almost 15-yr. old K.C. is griping about her life: how she cannot seem to succeed in school; her obnoxious brother; her too-smart best friend; her
Erin Callahan
(Excerpt from my review on

Nawra is a 14 year old girl living in a displacement camp in Darfur. Although she cannot read or write, she is placed into a program called "Save The Girls" - a combination charity/pen pal program in which a girl from Darfur is given a monthly monetary gift and is paired with a pen pal from the United States.

K.C., Nawra's pen pal, hates school, hates reading and particularly hates writing, so when her mother tells her that she's signed her up
The Milk of Birds is an eye-opening young adult novel in double POV about two teenage girls who communicate by writing letters to each other through a pen-pal program. One girl, Nawra, lives in a camp for internationally displaced people in Darfur, Sudan. The other girl, K. C., is from the U. S. Nawra is a victim of rape. Her home has been destroyed and much of her family is dead but her optimism is remarkable throughout the book. K. C. is a struggling student with divorced parents, whose mother ...more
Melissa Mahle
I've read the ARC of the Mile of Birds and have also had the wonderful opportunity to read the work in progress. This is a remarkable book. It transported me to the Sudan. The characters are so compelling. I laughed, I cried, I worried and at the end, I had hope. There is nothing more that I can ask from a book. It is simply wonderful and will be up for awards. Mark my words.
Nina O'Daniels
It is one thing to hop on Google and research another culture but it is a completely different experience when you are actually ‘pen pals’ of sorts with a person whose culture of which you know nothing. K.C. is that young teen who is aware there are bad things going on in the world, but not really affecting her. She is more worried about passing her classes so she can get a smartphone. Her mom is constantly on her about her school work and if she hears one more teacher tell her she needs to try ...more
Wow, what a fantastic story. Sure makes you rethink the importance of your life and your legacy.
This book is about two young girls who become pen pals. One girl out of necessity and the other for writing practice. So many amazing lessons. This book stays with you long after the story is over.
Dale Barlow
(YA) one teenager in Darfur, Sudan corresponding with another learning disabled (LD) teen in US, each telling there stories—oh, such different stories. Eventually, the LD US teen organizes a fund raiser for the Sudanese. Sometimes difficult reading because the Sudanese part is a bit more than gruesome on several levels. In the end, I was pleased I stuck with it, but it took some slogging through the rough parts to get to the ‘swweetness.’ 2014 CCBS recommendation, hardback published 2013, obtain ...more
There are some books that increase your awareness about certain issues while touching you deeply somewhere in your heart.

This book, for me, was just like that. It's basically about a girl in a refugee camp in Sudan, whose name is Nawra, exchanging letters with K.C., a teen in Virginia. I think Nawra has many more problems than K.C., but K.C. does have her own share of problems to deal with. As the two of them guide each other through their struggles, they form a bonding and a great friendship ac
Shannon Grieshaber
Actual rating: 4.5. Oh, my goodness, what a beautiful, beautiful book. The Milk of Birds is one of those books (like Sold or Trafficked) that when you read it, you want to do something. The author does not write as though her intention is a call to action, but all the feels you'll feel while reading it - well, yeah.

Nawra is 14 and lives in a displacement camp in Darfur. Her village (and most of her family, we later learn) were destroyed by the Janjaweed. Her life is filled with horror. K.C. live
Julie - Book Hooked Blog
American teenager K.C. hates school, especially reading and writing. So when her mother gives her the gift of participating in Save the Girls, an organization that pairs American donors with recipients in Darfur. They will spend a year exchanging letters and the American partner donates money towards teaching the women in Darfur a trade. K.C isn't thrilled at the idea of spending her free time doing something that seems so much like schoolwork, but as the letters begin to arrive from her partner ...more
Wow. The Milk of Birds was an emotional journey that delved much deeper than I thought a young adult book would.

Nawra is a Sudanese girl whose pen-pal is an everyday sort of American girl, K.C. The contrast between the girls is startling: one is a survivor in war-torn Darfur whose village no longer exists, while the other is a teenage girl struggling with school and her parents' divorce.

At first, I found myself despising K.C. (Your pen-pal is in a refugee camp and you're complaining to her about
WARNING: THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR EVERYONE. It is very well done, but the subject is difficult to read about and there is a lot of very PG-13 material in this book. Teachers and parents, please do not use this is a read-aloud book or a classroom study for middle schoolers! (This is not appropriate for all high-schoolers, either.)

Now that we have established that The Milk of Birds is not for every reader, I'd like to explore it a little bit.

For a brief summary, Nawra is a young woman (about 14 yea
---- Fourteen year old Nawra, a refugee in Sudan, becomes a correspondant of an American teenager, KC. Through their letters, Nawra reveals her horrific experiences, while KC becomes an advocate for Sudan and friend of Nawra. Their stories are full of heartache, but also full of hope. ----
Beautiful cover! it fit the inside and was attractive.
This was such a beautiful, moving, and unique story!
I really felt for Nawra, her story was engaging and beautiful- sad yet full of hope. I loved the Save Th
Just because there is a wealth of YA titles it doesn’t mean the same for the WOW factor and empowering subject matter that I’m constantly hunting for as a youthful, thoughtful reader. Thankfully, I didn’t have to read far to know I’d found something special with Sylvia Whitman’s YA debut, The Milk of Birds, an inspirational story of unlikely friendship.
The Milk of Birds features the heartwarming connection between Nawra a 14 year-old Darfur refugee and American, K.C. also 14, through a pen-pal p
The power of connections and of written words, even when they must be translated from one language to another, is evident in this remarkable book told from alternating points of view. Fourteen-year-old Nawra lives in a refugee camp in Darfur, Sudan, after having fled from terrorists with her mother. An organization named Save the Girls brings food and hope to the refugee camp. They also pair a small number of girls with sponsors from the United States. Nawra is paired with K.C., an American teen ...more
Ashley D
I was delighted when I won this book from a Goodreads giveaway. I love books that are going to teach me something and when I learned that the subject matter of this book was the correspondences between an American teenager and African teenager in an IDP camp in Darfur I new I would walk away with a sense that I had read something important.

First I have to say that I gave this book 4 stars because it resonated with me. I thought that the character of Nawra was very well written and developed. Dur
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