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4.27  ·  Rating Details ·  451 Ratings  ·  108 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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Feb 25, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
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 that 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 abo ...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
Mar 18, 2011 Jill rated it really liked it
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
Mar 19, 2009 Bobby Simic rated it really liked it
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.
L- Lisa
Jan 23, 2010 L- Lisa rated it it was amazing
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
Anna Todaro
Feb 27, 2014 Anna Todaro rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
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
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
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
Mar 05, 2009 jo rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
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.
Jan 11, 2009 Molly rated it it was amazing
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+
Nov 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Angee Barbe
Mar 23, 2011 Angee Barbe rated it did not like it
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.
Mar 11, 2009 Anina rated it it was amazing
one of those "it's sad cause it's true" books.i really liked the watercolor illustrations.
May 04, 2015 Kristine rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 12, 2009 June rated it really liked it
Beautifully written, and illustrated; but it's picture book format makes it likely that it's true audience might miss it.
May 20, 2017 Vee rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, childrens, 2016
I like this book, but I'll wait until my son (6) is a bit older to really understand and grasp what Marcus is/was doing to himself. It is definitely a book for older readers, nonetheless enjoyable.
Jun 16, 2017 Casandria rated it really liked it
A sad, sweet story of a watching an older brother descend into addiction, told with love and compassion.
Lauren Kiser
May 09, 2017 Lauren Kiser rated it it was amazing
I love that this book does show that students do go through real life situations and how he holds onto his drawings to help cope with his brother and grandpa.
Rachel Curtis
Mar 16, 2017 Rachel Curtis rated it it was amazing
Bird is an amazing journey through a families experience with drug abuse and death. The main character uses art as his outlet to dealing with the challenges in his life. The story is told in first person and evokes emotion. I think reading this book would be advantageous to children who have and have not had similar experiences. This is a true contemporary realism book.
The illustrations are double page spreads done in colored pencil and water color. The illustrations are vibrant and real. This
Alyson Long
Bird by Zetta Elliot (replacing a novel)

Plot summary: Mehkai, called Bird by his grandfather, is the main character of the story. His grandfather and his uncle Son were pilots together and are very important people in Mehkai’s life. Mehkai’s favorite thing to do in life is draw, which was taught to him originally through his brother Marcus’ graffiti. Growing up, Mehkai always looked up to and bonded with his brother, until strange things start happening with Marcus and he does not come around ho
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
Sara Canny
Feb 21, 2017 Sara Canny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kid-lit
For a person who has never been a huge fan of poems, I thought that the poem format was perfect for the powerful messages this book was relaying. Never would I have thought a children's book would bring me to tears, but it did. This book explains so much about a child's view of drug abuse, death, and hope for the future. It honestly made me consider the fact that those who die from drug overdoses have younger people in their lives that do not know why they did what they did or even what they wer ...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
Amber Davis
Feb 16, 2017 Amber Davis rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-lit
Bird is such a touching book for a child who is going through family issues or has a family member addicted to drugs. Bird is the nickname the little boy in the book is given by his grandfather. Bird doesn't quite understand what is going on with this older brother Marcus, who is addicted to drugs but Bird wants to try to 'fix' him somehow. Bird's grandfather tells him that Marcus can't be fixed. Bird escapes to art to get away from his anxiety and comes to find peace in his art. Bird can also f ...more
Rocheal Hoffman
Sep 26, 2012 Rocheal Hoffman rated it it was amazing
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
Heart wrenching and yet hopeful. i loved this book.

From School Library Journal
Grade 1–5—An urban African-American boy transcends the loss of loved ones with help from a caring elderly mentor and from the sustaining ability to create art. Bird looks back and remembers his once-admired older brother Marcus's slow descent into drug addiction, expulsion from the family home, and ultimate death—a death that ostensibly led to the decline and death of his beloved grandfather as well. Wise Uncle Son pic
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
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I’m a Black feminist writer of poetry, plays, essays, novels, and stories for children. I was born and raised in Canada, but have lived in the US for 20 years. I earned my PhD in American Studies from NYU in 2003; I have taught at Ohio University, Louisiana State University, Mount Holyoke College, Hunter College, Bard High School Early College, and Borough of Manhattan Community College. My poetry ...more
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