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The Milk of Birds

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  503 ratings  ·  120 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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Average rating 4.06  · 
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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
Jan 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, childlit-agency
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
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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/
Diane S ☔
Nov 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Teens from opposite sides of the worlds forge a friendship through letters in “Milk of Birds” by Sylvia Whitman. Nawra is 15, and she lives in Darfur, Sudan, in a refugee camp. K.C. lives a middle class life in Richmond Virginia. Their lives could not be more different. Nawra faces excruciating circumstances: illiteracy, multiple family deaths, home displacement, rape, pregnancy. K.C. lives with divorce, loneliness and an unsuccessful school career. The two find each other as penpals through the ...more
Sep 10, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is very informational and educates about what happened. It was a little slow for me, but I hope others enjoy the complexity more than me.
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.
May 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: teen-fiction, letters
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
Ms. Yingling
May 20, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
K.C. is a teenage girl living in Richmond, Virginia and she struggles with school. Nawra is a 14 year old girl who is living in a IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp. K.C.'s mother signs her up, through Save the Girls program, to send money and write letters to a girl in the Darfur region of Sudan. K.C. blows off this task for about four months, but once she starts reading Nawra's letters and K.C.'s mother finds an easier way for K.C. to write her letters a correspondence of deep friendship ...more
Dec 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: f-ya, cultural-ya
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
Feb 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
The Milk of Birds was a staggeringly beautiful book. Nawra's sayings brought wisdom throughout the "first world problems" of K. C.'s sections. It was amazing to see the naive, lazy (if I may), discouraged American girl change so much as she began to appreciate the troubles of Nawra's every day life. The alternating viewpoints between Nawra and K.C. gave a peek of just how different our world is in a developed country versus an undeveloped one as the one Nawra and Adeeba lived in. The raw, honest ...more
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 ...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 ...more
Edward Sullivan
Jul 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Melissa Mahle
Jul 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya
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.
May 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and I think everyone should read it, it shows a different side of the world and makes readers realize how lucky they are to have what they do. The Milk of Birds was published in 2013 by Sylvia Whitman. Sylvia has written many other books and mostly focuses on history novels, with the plot surrounding a certain family or person, just like in the Milk of Birds. The genre is realistic fiction and the book is centered around a freshman girl from Richmond, Virginia named K.C. and ...more
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
A beautiful story about international friendship and care that occur because of an American teenager being *ahem* strongly encouraged to become a pen pal with a teenage refugee in Darfur, Sudan. The story is told in a combination of letters between the two girls with other text from the point of view of each. We get to see each girl grow -- Nawra from Darfur learns to write and to speak up and share what has been done to her over the course of the novel and K.C. learns how to work through her ...more
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this book in the attempt to get it approved for the novel list in my school district. I think it will fit nicely. It’s not too hard to read (I certainly could have read it faster), it’s super engrossing (the mix of narrative, epistemological chapters, and story telling, was an easy sell), it’s heartbreaking (in a good way), and I can see 7th and 8th graders buying into this read easily.

Both Nawra, and KC have very distinct personalities, and they both have their struggles in life, and I
Emmilee Throckmorton
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya
I really liked this book! The different perspectives really were interesting to read and I loved that both characters were so young; I think it will be easier for my students to relate. I also liked that the book managed to slip in historical facts in a fluid and organic way instead of making the reader look things up (which many of my students wouldn’t do). The changing speaker also helped me keep a happier perspective. After reading numerous sad and depressing chapters of Nawra’s life, it was ...more
Jan 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Nawra is a Sudanese teenage girl living in one of the IDP (internally displaced people) camps as a result of the war in Darfur. A non-profit firm, Save the Girls, seeks to pair girls in the camp with teen girls in the U.S. in order to share their stories and experiences. Nawra is paired with K.C. who struggles with school and wants nothing to do with it. Gradually though, as they correspond each of them finds strength. Where will the experience take them?
What interested me with this was the
Sep 19, 2018 rated it liked it
I’m not really a fan of books that try to teach you something. If I want to learn about Darfur, I’d rather read nonfiction. However, I can see that many people—especially teens — might prefer fiction. And it’s fairly well written but still informative. The story comes out little by little, so in parts it feels confusing but then it makes sense later. Overall, not bad.
sadly, this did lean more towards a 2.5 star book than a 3 star one. i liked the characters and whatnot, but the freaking writing. one minute i could love it, than the next minute i would be on verge of dnfing it. not something i look forward to in a promising story.
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was one of my most favourite books in this year's reading journey. The horrors of the situation were stated in such a way, that the reader was given enough information to perceive the intent of the author without adding explicit details for the young adult rating of the book.
Beaner Emma
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Bittersweet ending but overall kind of big tragic. One of the girl's life is so sad she gets through it though. That in itself is comforting and it reminded me that sometimes there is light at the end of the tunnel. I'm aware that's gross and cheesy but *crying emoji *.
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
A sweet, topical YA perfect for a middle grade audience. Optimistic but doesn't shy away from the dark parts of conflict zones like Darfur and doesn't wrap everything up in a trite happy ending.
Penny Hagerty
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent tale told in two voices.
Diana N
May 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult, adult
Like this book quite a bit. However, this book is listed as a 'young-adult'; perhaps I'm too sheltered, but I feel it would be better to be listed under 'adult'.
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Wild Things: YA G...: January 2015- The Milk of Birds by Sylvia Whitman 3 13 Jan 16, 2015 11:42AM  

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