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Bird in a Box

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  789 Ratings  ·  143 Reviews
Otis, Willie, and Hibernia are three children with a lot in common: they've all lost a loved one, they each have secret dreams, and they won't stop fighting for what they want. And they're also a lot like their hero, famed boxer Joe Louis. Throughout this moving novel, their lives gradually converge to form friendship, family, and love. Their trials and triumphs echo those ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 12th 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2011)
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Okay for Now by Gary D. SchmidtA Monster Calls by Patrick NessWonderstruck by Brian SelznickDivergent by Veronica RothInside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Newbery 2012
66th out of 142 books — 722 voters
Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis PinkneyTrue by Katherine HanniganOkay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
CML Mock Newbery List
1st out of 3 books — 2 voters

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Community Reviews

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From March 2011 SLJ:
Gr 4-7–It is 1936, and the country is struggling in the midst of the Great Depression. As Joe Louis inches closer to becoming the American heavyweight boxing champion, his victories spark hope in a nation starved for good news. Against this backdrop, Pinkney introduces three narrators whose lives are about to intersect. Hibernia chafes at her father’s overprotectiveness: since her mother left them with dreams of singing at the Savoy, the reverend limits Hibernia’s singing to
Mar 07, 2011 Brittany rated it really liked it
In the middle of the Great Depression, there are three children from different backgrounds that are about to meet. They do have some things in common, dreams, loss and Joe Louis. The running fight commentary of Joe Louis' fights matches up nicely with the children's own struggles to get what they want from life, and what they need.

So this was a well written novel about some african american children in a time when everyone is down on their luck. Joe Louis provides and inspiration to the communit
Margo Tanenbaum
Set in 1936, at the height of the Great Depression, Bird in the Box is described by the author as "mostly a book about the power of the human spirit, and of how one man's triumph brought glory to so many people." This moving novel weaves together the story of three different children in Elmira, New York: the sassy Hibernia, the daughter of a reverend, whose mama ran away to New York City right after she was born with dreams of being a jazz singer; Willie, who lives with his abusive, drunk father ...more
Apr 09, 2011 Hannahlily rated it liked it
The historical setting is nicely done and the plot is sweet and entertaining, although everything wraps up a bit too neatly and positively to be believable.
Characterization is sometimes erratic: Willie and Otis’s voices are too similar at times, and Hibernia’s father’s personality completely changes with very little reason. Hibernia is supposed to be “sassy” I think, but she came off as unexplainably narcissistic to me.
Beth G.
The only thing folks are talking about is that this will be the fight to end all fights. And nobody seems to care about the tough times we're in, either. People are putting down their last little bit of money, betting on Joe Louis.

In this moving historical novel, Pinkney introduces three young African-Americans in Depression-era Elmira, New York. Hibernia is a 12-year-old preacher's daughter with dreams of becoming a famous jazz singer. Otis is trying to keep his memories of his father and mothe
Edi Campbell
Apr 17, 2011 Edi Campbell rated it it was ok
Shelves: mg, african-american
I really do think MG books can and should develop characters.
Reading Vacation
May 31, 2011 Reading Vacation rated it liked it
Bird in a Box had the potential to be great. It takes place during The Depression, one of the more interesting times in our nation’s history because of the sheer desperation so many suffered. Also, Bird in a Box teaches the lesson of overcoming tragedy and reaching for your dreams. Sounds great, but I had mixed feelings on how it all played out.

What turned me off were the main characters. The two boys, Wille and Otis, felt interchangeable. Both were scarred by experiences, both were almost too n
Apr 14, 2011 Doret rated it it was ok
The story takes place in 1936,during the middle of the great depression. The three main characters, are 12yr old Otis, Willie and Hibernia. At the beginning the three have yet to meet. All of them are fans of Joe Louis. The author enterwines some of the fights throughout the story. With so much going wrong the great fighter gives the three someone to hope and believe in.

Hibernia lives with her father a reverend. Her mother left to follow her dream to sing at the Savoy. Willie is forced to leave
Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney takes place in a small upstate New York town during the Great Depression and tells the story of three children- Hibernia, Willie and Otis- and how their lives comes together. Hibernia is the daughter of a Reverend and her mother left to have a singing career in New York City and now Hibernia dreams of someday doing the same. Willie and Otis both live in a home for orphans, but only one of them has lost their parents. Willie left home because of his abusive f ...more
Apr 17, 2011 Nancy rated it liked it
This book is geared for ages 9-12 and provides a toe-hold for not only the importance of Joe Louis to the African American population but also an understanding of the historical setting. Joe Louis was the underdog in all kinds of ways. He was black, he was poor, and he was just trying to fight himself up to the top.

The latter part of the 1930's finds the nation in the depths of the Great Depression. World War II had not yet begun and the economy was in the pooper. Everybody related to the underd
Set in the 1930s, this book traces a year in the life of three children whose lives eventually intertwine.

Hibernia is the daughter of a pastor. Her deepest wish is to become a famouse singer, but her father discourages it because dreams of fame are what led Hibernia's mother to abandon them.

Otis's family struggled while his dad was out of work and then had to move away for his job. However, they were loving and fond of telling riddles and always had a great time together. When Otis's parents wer
May 02, 2011 Ari rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
While Hibernia is annoying, she has a distinctive voice, in contrast to Otis and Willie, whom I kept mixing up. The voices of Otis and Willie blended together. I knew that one of them had scarred hands and that the other was an actual orphan but I could rarely remember who was who. Furthermore there was no character development, no growth in maturity and Otis was a saint. As it was Otis and Willie had to grow up fast, but then their growth stagnated. I'm not even sure why Hibernia was in the sto ...more
Cindy Hudson
May 25, 2011 Cindy Hudson rated it it was amazing
Hibernia sure can sing. She loves to belt out songs just like her mama, who left many years ago seeking to perform in the nightclubs of Harlem. Willie is a boxer. When he’s sparring he pretends he’s jabbing Sampson, the father who gets mean drunk and takes it out on Willie and his mama. Otis got his love of riddles from his daddy, who was always trying a new one out on his family. Now Otis dreams of riddles and tries to forget about the accident that took away his parents.

Three children in a sma
Chelsea Couillard-Smith
Jun 08, 2011 Chelsea Couillard-Smith rated it really liked it
I was completely charmed by this book. 3 young kids in depression-era Harlem, 2 in an orphanage and 1 living along with her preacher father, struggle to make their dreams come true. For Hibernia, that means convincing her dad that allowing her to become a famous singer is really God's will. For Otis, it's finding a place in the world after the tragic death of his loving parents. And for Willie, it's adjusting to the double loss of his mother, who sent him out in the world to escape his abusive f ...more
Jun 13, 2011 Phoebe rated it really liked it
Three children and their stories intersect in a small town in upstate New York, in the years 1936 and 1937. Hibernia is the reverend's daughter, gifted with an amazing singing voice and emotionally scarred by her mother's abandonment of her. Otis arrives at the Mercy Home for Negro Orphans after his mother and father are killed. His most precious possessions is his father's radio, empty paper gum wrappers, and the riddles his father always told. Willie lives there for his own protection, sent th ...more
Jul 17, 2011 Kimberly rated it liked it
he year is 1937 and the Great Depression has hit everyone hard, especially if you were African American. Three orphans, all alone for different reasons, live at Mercy Home. Three orphans, all with different stories, backgrounds, families, histories have one thing in common. They are going to root and hope and pray for Joe Louis, the first African American boxer to become heavyweight champion of the world.

I'm not going to lie. If not for the Diversity in YA challenge, I probably wouldn't have kn
Linda Lipko
Aug 10, 2011 Linda Lipko rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
This is yet another instance when words won't flow to describe the feeling of this wonderful book.

This is a marvelous story of chaos and hope, about abuse and redemption, about surviving amid insurmountable odds, about friendship that lasts and about emotional and physical scars that are painful and long to be healed.

Set in 1937 when mighty Joe Lewis (Brown Bomber) gained the world heavyweight boxing championship, the author showed the miraculous ability of Lewis to be a springboard of hope, not
Sep 28, 2011 Natalie rated it really liked it
Hibernia, Otis, and Willie take turns narrating this short novel set in 1937. The three young characters refuse to be defeated by difficult circumstances and as things move along their stories being to intertwine. In the background is the blossoming of jazz on the radio and the rise to fame of boxing star Joe Louis.

May 09, 2012 Karen rated it liked it
Shelves: young-reads
I like that so many authors these days are choosing to write historical fiction for older children ages 9-13. It's difficult for children to respond to history so as a teacher, I'm always looking for books that are about other children living during a time of historical importance. Children can relate much better. Bird in a Box is about three children living under different difficult circumstances during the Depression. Each child dreams for something better for themselves much like their hero, ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Barb Middleton
Feb 13, 2012 Barb Middleton rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
African Americans Hibernia, Willie, and Otis each tell their stories of life during the Great Depression when Joe Louis was fighting to win the heavyweight title. Hibernia is a typical teenager wanting to be independent. She wonders about her mom, who left them when Hibernia was born, in order to pursue her dream to become a famous singer. Hibernia’s dad is the Reverend who doesn’t like it that Hibernia can sing like her mother. He’s been mad about her mom leaving and wants to squash Hibernia’s ...more
Erin Reilly-Sanders
While I'm not totally in love with this one, I rather enjoyed it. The audio version is pleasant although some of the voices sound intentionally a bit immature. I also would have liked to have the musical pieces mentioned sung rather than read, but I'm picky. The story is well told, the perspectives of the three children engage without being confusing. It has some really great potentials for connections to history and social organizations that unfortunately might go unused in classrooms that typi ...more
Becky Mccammon
Aug 27, 2013 Becky Mccammon rated it really liked it
It took reaching the end of the novel to realize that the "Bird in a Box" metaphor really parallels "Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou in a thoughtful way. And, in many ways, it allows younger readers to glimpse the depths of despair and pain of feeling trapped and voiceless without heading into the darker literary and adult waters of Angelou. Note: you should read Angelou at some point, for sure!

** OK, so the title does recur in the book and that's one thing readers should pay some atte
"Sometimes the best fight is no fight at all. Even a bird in a box can get free is he uses his wits, if he don't ram at the walls around him."

The story begins in 1936. The radio is the most important form of entertainment and Joe Louis is what everyone is talking about. Three kids with their own difficulties in life are drawn together by circumstances. Otis, whose parents were killed in a car accident and Willie, whose father severely burns him, live at the Mercy Home for Negro Orphans. Hibernia
Feb 06, 2015 Marla rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book, as every chapter showed different perspectives on the same situation (Hibernia, Otis & Will). The book started off slightly confusing, however, once I found connections between all three characters, it was easier to understand. This book definitely emphasises a lot on racism and no freedom to do what you wish (Bird In a Box). I recommend this book to anyone that likes to read stories about racist issues and the right to receive freedom. I also recommend th ...more
May 23, 2015 Barbara rated it really liked it
Bird in a box is a touching story about three children that have few things in common, they have lost an important person in their lives and the search for hope. The courage that they are all pursuing is found through the exciting boxing matches of Joe Louis.
Hibernia lost her mother when she was little. Her mother left her with her father, the Reverend C. Elias Tyson and moved to become a famous singer. Now all Hibernia is wishing, is to become a famous singer too. Willie lived in a household w
Jun 02, 2016 Kiesha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the unique story of three friends and how their lives weave together effortlessly. The story is set during the hight of the Great Depression. Hibernia is sassy and lives with her Reverend father. She dreams of becoming a famous singer and performing in Harlem's swanky Savoy Ballroom. Willie is recovering from a tragedy that prevents him from becoming a junior boxing champion. Otis spends every night glue to the radio, listening to the voices that remind him of his parents. Each chapter i ...more
Sep 23, 2016 stillme rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Generous notes in the back with short bios of all the famous people mentioned. This would be extremely helpful for those unfamiliar with the historical background.
Sep 24, 2016 Laura rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-grades, ya
This book has some very difficult material in it for young readers (child abuse). I would recommend it to students with caution.
Oct 23, 2016 Abby rated it it was amazing
I loved learning about this time and place in history.
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Andrea Davis Pinkney is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 books for children, including the Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book Duke Ellington, illustrated by Brian Pinkney; Let it Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and winner of the Carter G. Woodson Award; and Alvin Ailey, a Parenting Publication Gold medal winne ...more
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