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4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  302 ratings  ·  74 reviews
Young Mekhai, better known as Bird, loves to draw. With drawings, he can erase the things that don't turn out right. In real life, problems aren t so easily fixed.

As Bird struggles to understand the death of his beloved grandfather and his older brother s drug addiction, he escapes into his art. Drawing is an outlet for Bird s emotions and imagination, and provides a path
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published October 1st 2008 by Lee & Low Books (first published January 10th 2008)
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218th out of 326 books — 53 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 560)
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This book was so touching. Mehkai, known as "Bird," uses drawing to help him cope with the difficulties of life, including his grandfather's death and his brother's drug addiction. The illustrations are perfect: the use of white space makes for a borderless movement between Bird's life and his drawings of life. I didn't notice until the second reading the Marcus' graffiti painting is of a bird; the bird theme is many-layered. A sad story that still manages to be hopeful, and to speak simply abou ...more
When we first meet Mekhai (aka Bird), he is sitting on his bed, looking out his bedroom window and drawing. His work is pinned to the walls, a sketchpad is on his lap and he is rendering the scene: the bird, prominent, is soaring above the rooftops. My first thought, before I began author Zetta Elliott’s artful narration, was that opening scene of Peter waking and peering out the window at a day and world of possibility in The Snow Day by Ezra Jack Keats. It is a morning, there is a dawning, and ...more
This is one of the loveliest most affecting books for children I’ve seen in a long time. It is a fantastic book to help children deal with the loss of a loved one. It has garnered a long list of awards, including the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award, The Paterson Prize for Books for Young People, and ALA Notable Children’s Book. The illustrator, Shadra Strickland, won the 2009 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent in Illustrations. Lee & Low recommends this book for children aged 8 ...more
Mary Ann
a beautiful, gentle, powerful story - about a boy's relationship with his brother and grandfather, about how his family supports him as he copes with his brother's and grandfather's deaths, about his relationship with Uncle Sonny, and about his gift of drawing.

universal in a child's support by his family and sadness with the passing of his grandfather & brother, and yet so specific to the particular urban setting. complex and simple at the same time - fantastic.
Bobby Simic
There's a point in the book where a character talks about birds: "birds aren't light...We only think that they're strong." The opposite could be said for this book and the expectations we might draw from its thin size, minimal text and many pictures. But it defies expectiation (or at least mine) and efficiently utilizes the little that it has and becomes an emotional story of addiction, loss, and the redemptive benefits of art.
Anna Todaro
Anyone who thinks that a child is not going to be exposed to drug addiction at some point in their life is dreaming. Whether a family member, relative, friend, or schoolmate; there is going to be someone. This is not a race issue or an economic status issue. This is a reality issue. Will you be ready? This book should be read WITH an older person. A family member, adult, mentor. Why do I say this? Look at the protagonist in the book himself. He was not alone with this situation, he had a safety ...more
L- Lisa
This picture book for older readers tells the story of Bird, who loves to draw. The story weaves Bird’s memory his older brother; his artistic inspiration, his addiction to drugs, being kicked out of their home and ultimate death. He also reflects on memories of his grandfather who has also died. Throughout the book Bird creates his drawings, supported by the memory of his brother and encouraged by his uncle. Uncle Son is Bird’s grandfather’s brother who becomes a supportive mentor in his life. ...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book is also a 2009 Coretta Scott King winner and a John Steptoe award winner. Mekhai is nick-named “Bird” because he likes to draw birds and his Granddad thought he looked like a bird as a child. Some of the illustrations are Bird’s drawings, while others are beautiful watercolor representations of his neighborhood. This story explores the complications in Bird’s life—his brother is a drug addict and Granddad just died. Even though the book deals with the dark topics, Bird has many strong, ...more
Though this book is really sad, I truly enjoyed it. I feel that it covers a topic that many people can relate too, especially younger kids. I definitely recommend this book for everyone.
An intense but beautiful book about a young boy, Bird, whose older brother has a severe drug addiction. Bird finds release, escape, and comfort through drawing. Both the illustrations and the text are very delicate, not overpowering or overstated, which makes the weight of the story easier to bear. The illustrations create something of a fragile bridge between Bird's reality and his inner thoughts. This is a tough topic for a picture book, but I think the end result is lovely and important.
Delicate first-person verse and a stirring orchestration of watercolour, charcoal and ballpoint pen illustrations peek inside a young artist as he wrestles with his family’s issues of addiction and loss.

You can listen in on our chat about this book on our Just One More Book! Children's Book Podcast.
I really enjoyed this tender story about a young boy who has lost loved ones and is trying to work through his feelings. He has a brother who was addicted to drugs and his grandfather has died. I have to say, the summary spoke of the grandfather's death, but nobody else's so there was a page that confused me. I had to read and reread when it said, "After the funeral Grandad went to bed." I flipped back to the page before and then read again. I think that may be confusing for younger readers too. ...more
This book really touched me. It was the story of a boy whose brother was a drug addict. It broke my heart to read but I was so thankful there was an honest book out there that we could hand to a child who may be going through something like this. So well worded that is could be used with a younger age than most books. Grades 3+
Angee Barbe
This books seems innocent until you turn the pages. It writes about drug use and other illegal activities. I was astonished to find it in the West Virginia Children's Choice Book Award Nominees. I pulled it from our library shelf immediatley after reading.
Sensitive story about a young boy whose brother becomes addicted to drugs and died as a result. Beautiful illustrations and uplifting ending.
Beautifully written, and illustrated; but it's picture book format makes it likely that it's true audience might miss it.
one of those "it's sad cause it's true" books.i really liked the watercolor illustrations.
Dixie Keyes
Winner of the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award and the Coretta Scott King & John Steptoe New Talent award, this uniquely illustrated book (watercolor, gouache, charcoal and pen), opens us to Mekhai (Bird) whose creativity in drawing carries him through making sense of his world and his relationships. With historical references embedded in meaningful places, Elliott renders magic on the page through Bird's compassion and grief. His grandfather is a guiding, generational presence that solidifies thi ...more
Suzanne Jordan
Bird loves drawing. He draws life around him - birds, trees, the city, his brother, more birds. He also spends time with Uncle Son, his grandfather's best friend who looks out for him. They listen to music, talk about life, and of course, look at birds. Bird used to spend time with his brother, Marcus, but a serious drug addiction put an end to that. In a perfect combination of beautifully written words and illustrations, Bird's life unfolds as he draws pictures to remember and draws strength fr ...more
Ms. McCall
Bird, the melancholy story of a young boy who loses his older brother (to drugs) as well as his grandfather, is surely controversial for having content about drugs. As a SLTP student, it really does irk me that our self-censorship ought to revoke such books with strong messages and winning handsome literary awards. A Corretta Scott King Award winner, this book goes further than the African American race portrayed, but speaks to all young readers who may face a hardship such as addiction in thei ...more
Bird is the nickname of a young Brooklyn boy who loves drawing and loves birds, though the nickname pre-dates his love of birds and is also a reference to Charlie “Bird” Parker, the great jazz musician. It’s a children’s book, written in free verse, that tackles tough themes—the risks of urban America, the consequences of someone we love taking wrong paths that as irretriviably as a riptide carry that person away forever, and how loss and love threaten to overwhelm us. Challenging themes for a c ...more
Dec 05, 2012 Ed added it
Elliott, Zetta (2008). Bird. Shadra Strickland, Illustrator. NY: Lee & Low Books. (unpaginated) ISBN: 978-1-60060-241-2 (Hardcover) $19.95

Bird is another one of those fabulous books that is better suited to older students, despite a cover that looks young. Mehkai is a young artist. His grandfather calls him Bird. Bird would not be an artist, perhaps, if it were not for the mentoring provided by his older brother Marcus. Marcus, however, is not your typical mentor and many do not value his ar
Nicki Blomquist
This books needs to come with a warning. While this book is great for kids that may experience real life situations like this I do not think it is an appropriate book young readers may pull from the shelf and read on their own. Mehkani's nickname is Bird. His granddad who passes away last year gave him that name. Granddad's best friend Sonny now spends a weekly afternoon in the park with Bird. This surrogate granddad has become a positive influence in Bird's life. Bird spends time with him after ...more
Rocheal Hoffman
It is unfortunate how challenging it is to find children's books as well written and as imaginatively illustrated as this children's narrative. Bird is a little boy whose family has gone through troubled times. Bird's grandfather, a main character, remains optimistic throughout the entire story, and inspires his grandson (Bird) to pursue his imagination and dreams through artwork, which is beautifully displayed through the entire story. This would be a wonderful book for the elementary classroom ...more
Drugs, African-American culture, and children are rarely talked about in picture books. Stereotypes and reality shows abound from television programs like 60 minutes, Frontline, and countless movies on this connection. Sensitivity to the topic and the desire by an author and illustrator to discuss these ideas to young children has naturally been avoided by writer and publisher alike. Zetta Elliot and Shadra Strickland plunge gently but clear eyed into the dark waters of the destructive nature of ...more
A realistic and most beautiful tale of a young boy that has lost his grandfather and is blessed to have his grandfather's friend to mentor him, while his chemically dependent older brother that he looks up to is too down in the dumps to be saved. The illustrations and words are warm, loving and real. We can't hide the truth from our children when their lives don't hide the horrors from them. BIRD is a 8 star book. It is up there with VISITING DAY, CHESS RUMBLE and THE WAY A DOOR CLOSES and I'M L ...more
Kerry (The Roaming Librarian)
I found Bird, to be a beautiful combination of sweet and sorrowful and while I understand people (adults) wanting to limit children’s access to the sensitive subject material, I think kids need it, and there are kids going through it who may find comfort in it. My best friend is working with a few kids going through rough situations (not completely unlike this one, but not the exact same thing) where they are left to fend for themselves, or they are faced with truly scary situations. I think thi ...more
Gabrielle Blockton
Date: September 7th, 2014

Author: Zetta Elliott; Illustrations by Shadra Strickland

Title: Bird

Plot: Bird is a young man who loves drawing and sketching birds, and his family, especially his older brother Marcus, a young man whose life is spiraling out-of-control because of his drug problem.

Setting: City; (New York)

Characters: Mehkai/Bird, Mama, Papa, Uncle Son, Marcus

Point-of-View: First-Person Narrative

Theme: Broken Souls, Imagination, Hope, Drug-Use

Style: Poetry

Copyright: 2008

Notes: I loved t
Christie Lee
I thought the illustrations were wonderful, and the story was touching. It deals with drugs and loss of loved ones, and also of dreams for the future. It would be difficult to explain to a student about the dead brother who was an addict supposedly going to heaven however, There was a lot of good in the book, but I don't think this is one that I'd chose to read to students.
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Zetta Elliott’s poetry has been published in the Cave Canem anthology, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Check the Rhyme: an Anthology of Female Poets and Emcees, and Coloring Book: an Eclectic Anthology of Fiction and Poetry by Multicultural Writers. Her novella, Plastique, was excerpted in T Dot Griots: an Anthology of Toronto’s Black Storytellers, and her essays have appeared in The Blac ...more
More about Zetta Elliott...
A Wish After Midnight Ship of Souls Room in My Heart The Magic Mirror The Girl Who Swallowed the Sun

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