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Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,474 Ratings  ·  422 Reviews
“I hate myself but I love Walt Whitman, the kook. Always positive. I need to be more positive, so I wake myself up every morning with a song of myself.”

Sixteen-year-old James Whitman has been yawping (à la Whitman) at his abusive father ever since he kicked his beloved older sister, Jorie, out of the house. James’s painful struggle with anxiety and depression—along with h
Hardcover, 310 pages
Published March 5th 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Jan 26, 2013 Newengland rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, finished-in-2013
Evan Roskos' debut novel tells the anything-but-sweet story of a 16-year-old suffering from depression and with good reason. His older sister has been kicked out of the house. The twin terrors that are his parents (nicknamed "The Brute" and "The Banshee") are physically and mentally painful to be around. And high school? Well, the brick factories we call "schools" are never ideal environments for sensitive souls like James Whitman, a distraught kid whose only joy is memorizing his namesake's poe ...more
Cal Armistead
Aug 25, 2013 Cal Armistead rated it it was amazing
This was one of those books you finish reading, close the cover, and gaze at fondly, as if at a good friend. (Cheesy, but I can't help. it.) James Whitman is a character that we all would love to be friends with, because he's real, he's sensitive, he's smart, and even though he is dealing with a whole lot in his life, he has a wicked sense of humor and makes us laugh. I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys contemporary realistic fiction. The Walt Whitman references are excellent as well, a ...more
Jubilation Lee
It has been a long month here at Goodreads, friends, what with various things and stuff (or, as I tried to explain to my mother, "That time that Goodreads randomly and ill-advisedly flexed its Huge Corporation muscles and ruined perhaps forever the happiness of a bunch of their reviewers and we shouldn’t have been surprised because that’s what Huge Corporations do but we were fools, fools in love, oh God Goodreads why you hurt us so, you may take our reviews but you’ll never take our freedoooooo ...more
Mar 20, 2013 Nafiza rated it really liked it
Shelves: net-galley, 2013
A few weeks ago, we were discussing constructions of masculine identity in children’s literature. We had read an article by the fantastic Perry Nodelman about the stereotypes applied to men and boys where their masculinity is concerned. These stereotypes were collected under headings such as “phallic masculinity” and “group masculinity.” To cut a long winded ramble short, it was an interesting read and if you want the name of the article, ask me.

Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets constructs masculi
Mar 21, 2013 Monica rated it it was amazing
I'm a big fan of YA fiction, mainly because I believe that the anxiety, self-consciousness, and self-loathing that begin in adolescence never really go away and, for some of us, may actually increase over time. For these reasons, this book is right in my wheelhouse. What's new to me, though, is YA from a teenage male's point of view. Most of the YA books I read are by women, about girls, and any YA book that I've read with a male character has tended to fall more in the fantasy or sci-fi genres ...more
I have anxieties ... I have panic attacks and I get depressed ... I have serious issues that I need to talk to a professional therapist about.

A lot of people would probably pick this book up and find that James Whitman is very much like Charlie Kelmeckis from The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I'm rather inclined to agree, though for me James reminds me of a different Charlie. That is, Charlie Brown. Like Brown, James is a rather meek character with anxieties. They are both shy, they have thei
Rachele Alpine
As a HS English teacher and lover of Walt Whitman, I can’t express how much I loved this book. It tackles some tough subjects but never ever does it in a way that feels preachy or clinical. Roskos’ writing is honest and authentic; it makes the reader want to follow James on his journey and root for him.

I’m always looking for a good book that addresses depression in a realistic way and is relatable to students. This book does both of those things. The main character, James, deals with thoughts an
Feb 21, 2013 Kelly rated it it was amazing
James's sister Jorie got kicked out of the house after she was expelled from school. Now he doesn't know where she is or how to get in touch with her, and he needs to talk with her because he needs to connect with someone who completely understands what's going on.

When the girl James is crushing on asks him to help her locate Jorie's poetry for submission to the school literary journal, he's torn. He doesn't want to go through her things, but he does want to have Beth's attention. Plus, it could
Jun 08, 2013 Ed added it
Shelves: poetry
Roskos, E. (2013). Dr. Bird's advice for sad poets. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 310 pp. ISBN: 978-0-547-92853-1. (Hardcover); $16.99.

Fans of Vizzini's Kind of a Funny Story will appreciate this Yawping fine look at mental health. Unlike Vizzini's book, however, readers see a young man, James Whitman, scrambling to figure out ways to pay for the therapy his dysfunctional father (and others) think is a waste of money. James battles depression by reading Walt Whitman poetry. The text has echoes of S
Jul 15, 2013 Marcia rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: fans of 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower'
I thought Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets was an OK read, but nothing too special. This story about sixteen-year-old James Whitman, who has anxieties, a depression and an abusive father, is very slow paced. I felt like nothing really happened.. The characters are also a bit flat, maybe because the main character is very self absorbed.

In Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets are a lot of references, for example to Twilight and Lady Gaga. Normally I like those references in a book, but this time I felt
Amanda Pearl
Do you ever just randomly pick up a book without knowing much about it and it's just the perfect thing for your life? Well that's what happened for me. I wandered into the bookstore with the goal of just getting a coffee but then Dr Bird's caught my eye. I had no idea what it was about, but I saw the blurbs from Matthew Quick and Jesse Andrews and thought "I need to read this".

Turns out Dr. Bird's is about a boy with depression and anxiety. The synchronicity is rather freaky because I've suspec
Erin Bowman
DR. BIRD’S ADVICE FOR SAD POETS was a wonderful, refreshing surprise. James Whitman is battling depression. His abusive father has just kicked James’s older sister, Jorie, out of the house when she’s expelled from school, and when he refuses to pay for James to see a therapist, James finds his own manners of coping. Mainly, talking to a pigeon outside his window (Dr. Bird), quoting Walt Whitman, and hugging trees. As James tries to make sense of Jorie’s fate, he realizes he may share many of his ...more
Kathryn Kopple
May 03, 2013 Kathryn Kopple rated it it was amazing
I was very happy to be given the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Evan Roskos' Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets (due out in 2013). James Whitman (the protagonist) is truly a character anyone can believe in, understand, laugh along with-because the humor is great (Roskos knows how to use humor to create sympathetic characters without making a caricature of their struggles; instead their jokes, banter, spats, and retorts make them seem all the more human.) James may be in high school but he ...more
Jul 09, 2013 Liviania rated it it was amazing
Evan Roskos's debut novel is a strange, brilliant creation. Walt Whitman-obsessed James Whitman has depression. He needs therapy, and not just from the imaginary bird therapist in his head. But his distant, angry parents are unlikely to help him seek medical attention and his older sister was recently kicked out.

DR. BIRD'S ADVICE FOR SAD POETS could be a very dreary, painful book. But it's quite funny and hopeful. James is a fairly normal teenage boy, albeit a little weird about the environment.
Jun 01, 2015 Dominic rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets has several things going for it. It's main character, James Whitman, seems tailor-made for me. He's a sensitive, awkward, neurotic teenager with some inner demons, and a love for the poetry of Walt Whitman. The book is littered with shameless Whitman quotes (yes!) and dotted with James' own barbaric yawp, complete with exclamation marks!

I believe it will be a hard sell for the majority of my students, though. While the characterization is solid, the plot sort of m
Melissa Frye
Mar 18, 2013 Melissa Frye rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
Don’t you just love it when you open a book and it draws you in so completely that you’re loathe to close it for any reason? Evan Roskos has written such a book. The characters and pacing grab the reader and don’t let go.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads:

“I hate myself but I love Walt Whitman, the kook. Always positive. I need to be more positive, so I wake myself up every morning with a song of myself.”

Sixteen-year-old James Whitman has been yawping (à la Whitman) at his abusive father ever since
James Whitman (no relation to poet Walt Whitman, whom he adores) has been struggling ever since his abusive father kicked his older sister Jorie out of the house. His struggle with depression and anxiety is made even worse by his parents' refusal to pay for therapy. He tries to go forward (and let out Walt Whitman-like YAWPs while doing so) by getting a job, working on a literary mag, and making an effort to see his sister, but he gets caught up and bogged down in the details of his sister's exp ...more
Jul 29, 2013 Allie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: The Perks of Being A Wallflower crowd.
This book was so incredibly refreshing and unlike any YA book I've read in awhile.

James Whitman shares a last name with his poetic inspiration Walt Whitman and enjoys Songs of Myself, hugging trees for their therapeutic value, and yawping. James Whitman yawps all day long if only to save his sanity. He sees things that most people are blind to, and has an imaginary therapist manifested as a pigeon.

James Whitman suffers from crippling panic attacks and depression, which is understandable in the
Kit Grindstaff
Aug 26, 2013 Kit Grindstaff rated it it was amazing
James Whitman is a troubled teen whose way of dealing with a dreadful home life isn't to head down some slippery slope of self-destruction, but to hug trees, find solace in the poetry of Walt (namesake) Whitman - and to get advice from his Inner Therapist, who happens to be...a bird.

Dr. Bird, an invention born of James's angst, is a big part of what makes him such a lovable character. His first-person narrative is full of brilliant flashes of humor, which on the surface of it, soften the pain o
Dec 26, 2013 Nicki rated it it was ok
This is a story about 16 year old James Whitman who is severely depressed and anxious. His sister was recently expelled from school and kicked out of the house and his parents seem abusive. (I say seem abusive because it's hard to tell if they actually are or, if James has just escalated the situation in his brain.) James spends the entirety of the book trying to fix himself and find answers to why his sister was expelled and a way to get her back into school.

The story basically revolves around
Mar 31, 2013 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
Whoa that was heavy. Roskos basically held my hand and walked me (pulled me? dragged me?) back through a few years of my life that up until now seemed very, very distant. Thanks, I guess? I hope this book serves a different kind of purpose for others who read it (hopefully teens...of course because that is the intended audience, right?). I don't know what that purpose will be, but I hope it's positive and entertaining and interesting and eye-opening and funny. This book has all those elements, b ...more
Victoria Scott
Mar 24, 2013 Victoria Scott rated it it was amazing
An absolutely outstanding read! Roskos didn't hold back while writing this story, and that quiet confidence will pay dividends to readers for years to come. The weaving of Whitman's writing into the story was seamless, and I envied the raw, and often humorous exploration into anxiety and depression that affects not only an individual, but a family. DR. BIRD'S ADVICE FOR SAD POETS is a thoroughly entertaining read that will easily stand the test of time!
Caitlin Jansma
Sep 13, 2015 Caitlin Jansma rated it really liked it
Loved it! Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets is about James Whitman, a very sweet, understanding boy. James suffers from depression, hugs trees, and can be really smart to say the least. He spends his time dealing with the invisible rules his parents are making up, trying to figure out what happened to his sister Jorie, who got kicked out of school, and talking to Dr. Bird. James is a very sweet person, who tries to think like his favorite poet Walt Whitman, a man who sees good in everything, and J ...more
Mar 19, 2013 Lisa added it
I enjoyed it a lot. Really unique book!
Nov 28, 2014 Bethany rated it it was amazing
Yawp, yawp!

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets was an amazing read! I enjoyed it the whole time I had been reading it! It is hard to believe that a book could bring my moods up to the highest it can be, and then plunge my soul into absolute hell, only to bring it right back up again. How can a book do that!? Crazy! But this book surely did.

Meet James Whitman, a quirky odd teenage boy, who finds pleasures in hugging trees, carrying around his own paperback copy of his favorite poet Walt Whitman, and
Jul 04, 2014 Cynthia rated it really liked it

(Find the original review and more at Jellyfish Reads.)

James Whitman is a teenage boy who loves Walt Whitman. He loves poetry and photography and trees and birds. He hugs trees to make himself feel better. He suffers from anxiety and depression and has an imaginary pigeon as his therapist. His parents are abusive, and his sister no longer lives in the house with them, ever since she got into a fight at school and was expelled and subsequently kicked out of the house. He wants his sister back.

Christine (Voldy's Gone Moldy)
Actual rating: 4.35 stars
For a year, I've been seeing an imaginary therapist. Her name is Dr. Bird. She is a large pigeon, human-size. She wears no clothes. Because she's a bird.

This is the type of person James Whitman is. He hugs trees and talks to Dr. Bird when he's feeling depressed. He is the type of person who memorizes Walt Whitman, likes to yawp, and risks his life to save injured animals from buses, even though sometimes those animals turn out to be Tastykake wrappers, and he turns out
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 17, 2013 Clay rated it really liked it
Much enjoyed this first novel about 16YO James Whitman, yawping student of poet Walt, whose life has hit the adolescent skids.

James's older sister Jorie has been suspended from school, then kicked out of their house for reasons he feels partly responsible for and strives to completely understand. James, clinically depressed and anxious over his sister's troubles and his own, seeks help any way he can get it: From writing poetry and hugging trees; from a pigeon, the titular Dr. Bird; from a real
Mar 31, 2013 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013, printz2014
The main character in this book deals a lot with depression and anxiety in relation to a very unstable home life. I really liked the character development BUT the plot was a little sitcom-y and had some probable inaccuracies. The character is developed through his thoughts and conversations with others although I get that suspicion that he is really not an outcast at all, just suffering from a low opinion of himself (like the "geek" in movies who is really hot but they put glasses on him and the ...more
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Evan Roskos was born and raised in New Jersey, a state often maligned for its air and politics but rightly praised for its produce. One of Narrative’s Best New Writers, Evan’s fiction has appeared in Granta’s New Voices online feature, as well as in Story Quarterly, The Hummingbird Review, and BestFiction. He earned an MFA from Rutgers University - Newark and teaches literature and writing courses ...more
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“When I hug trees, the bark marks my cheek and reminds me I'm alive. Or that my nervous system is still intact. The trees breathe all the time and no one really notices. They take in all the air we choke on. They live and die in silence. So I hug them. Someone should.” 25 likes
“I answer that I cannot answer.” 14 likes
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