For fans of Jennifer Holm, a heartfelt and unforgettable middle-grade novel about an irresistible girl and her family, tragic change, and the healing power of love and friendship. In 1972 home is a cozy nest on Cape Cod for eleven-year-old Naomi "Chirp" Orenstein, her older sister, Rachel; her psychiatrist father; and her dancer mother. But then Chirp's mom develops symptoms of a serious disease, and everything changes.
Chirp finds comfort in watching her beloved wild birds. She also finds a true friend in Joey, the mysterious boy who lives across the street. Together they create their own private world and come up with the perfect plan: Escape. Adventure. Discovery.
Nest is Esther Ehrlich's stunning debut novel. Her lyrical writing is honest, humorous, and deeply affecting. Chirp and Joey will steal your heart. Long after you finish Nest, the spirit of Chirp and her loving family will stay with you.
Praise for Nest:
"A poignant, insightful story of family crisis and the healing power of friendship." —Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"A stunning debut, with lyrical prose and superbly developed characters. . . . [Readers] will savor Nest and reflect on it long after its conclusion." —School Library Journal, Starred
"Ehrlich's novel beautifully captures the fragile bond shared by Chirp and Joey and their growing trust for each other in a world filled with disappointments and misunderstandings." —Publishers Weekly, Starred
"Chirp's first-person voice is believable; her poignant earnestness is truly heartrending. Ehrlich writes beautifully, constructing scenes with grace and layers of telling detail and insight." —The Horn Book
What authors are saying about Nest:
"Nest sings with heart and emotion. Simply gorgeous." —Jennifer L. Holm, New York Times bestselling author of Turtle in Paradise
"Nest speaks to the heart. I wanted to put my arms around Chirp and never let go." —Holly Goldberg Sloan, author of Counting by 7s and I'll Be There
"I loved the book! It's so tender and touching and real. Chirp is a marvelous character, and Joey's just plain lovable. I worry about him. Congratulations. The book is absolutely splendid and I hope everyone in the world notices." —Karen Cushman, author of the Newbery Medal–winning, The Midwife's Apprentice, and the Newbery Honor, Catherine, Called Birdy
"A remarkable work. Esther Ehrlich's characters stand out so real and true: Chirp's friendship with Joey is tender and moving, and truly unforgettable. One can see Cape Cod and feel Chirp's love for the birds wheeling overhead. I wanted this story to go on and on. What a brilliant future this author has. I can't wait to read her next book." —Patricia Reilly Giff, two-time Newbery Honor–winning author
Esther Ehrlich's debut novel, Nest, is forthcoming from Wendy Lamb Books/Random House in September 2014. Ehrlich was born and raised in Boston, graduated from Vassar College, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.
As much as I enjoy fantasy and adventure, I love everyday stories about childhood. This ended up being much more serious and moving than I expected, however.
I listened to much of this audiobook as I was huddled under the covers in the dark in my own nest, much like the ones Chirp finds comfort in when she feels alone. Jenna Lamia does a beautifully subtle reading (at one point I skipped back so I could listen to hear her charming rendition of a horned owl again), though she also made me tear up at the emotional scenes.
A really lovely book that takes the time to let its story breathe, and a really lovely audio experience.
One thing about this book. This author can write. For a first book this one was absolutely amazing. She brings the voice of Naomi aka Chirp to life.
Chirp's voice reminded me of Ramona in the Beverly Cleary books because she just seemed so real. I can actually picture the girl in my head. Full of spunk and sass. The book is on the dark side though. You have Joey the boy next door that you just know bad things are happening to but they never get explained. Then Chirp's mom is sick. Handled well but I still shed some tears. So I wonder the age that this book is written for is 8-12 year olds...are kids that much more grown up than I was at that age? This book would have broken my heart at that age.
I do recommend the book because I did really like that trip back to childhood...but get some tissues out.
I received an ARC copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
UPDATE: NEW REVIEW: I read this book for the 2nd time. [2015 Thanksgiving week-end] ......couple years later than the first read. HERE is my Updated NEW review: [spoilers included]
In the story, "Nest", by Esther Ehrlich, its almost Thanksgiving. The Orenstein Family -living in the Cape -usually enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at their house. Naomi, (Chirp), 11 years old, (narrator), is remembering last years Thanksgiving: Her mother would always brown the onions, and mash their potatoes in 'schmaltz' (Yiddish for chicken fat), instead of butter. They made their cranberry sauce from cranberries that grew right on the Cape. Grandma and Grandpa visited from New York each year and brought cheesecake from Zabar's with them.
Things were different this year. Naomi, older sister, Rachel, and dad, took a car trip to Boston to visit their mother. Hannah's in mental facility. After having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she fell into severe depression. Hannah had a history of depression --but nothing to this degree. (nothing her daughters ever saw). Dad, (Dr. Orenststein, a psychiatrist), knew of his wife's history --but their daughters really understood. Hannah grew up in a poor section from the Bronx. Her mother was a Holocaust survivor. There had been a lot of tension between Naomi's mother and 'her' mother. (so, we the reader, get a hint that the depression Hannah may have experienced as a child -was lying dormant for many years).
At the beginning of this story..'The Orenstein's' look like the most wonderful functional family. The parents were lovely-they loved each other -they loved their children. There was freedom for their daughters to express themselves-explore their own interests-trusted to make personal choices-go off on their own--yet enough security to feel protected. I liked this family....they valued education -and creative thinking. They also happened to be the only Jewish family in the area -(not terribly religious), but they attended the High Holidays (the daughters missed school). They didn't celebrate Christmas. They celebrated Chanukah and Friday night Shabbas by lighting the candles and saying the blessings.
A few kids teased Naomi for being Jewish, but it wasn't a huge issue. She was grounded in who she was. It was easy to credit the stability of her parents. Until her mother got sick, love was flowing naturally in all directions --individually and as a family tribe. Respect was healthy. 'Enjoyment-traditions', were also a standout in this family...with 'special' days for each child with 'mom'.
Naomi had friends that were allowed to 'dig-in' to all the junk food they wanted: ding gongs-twinkies-chips, The Orensteins had food-boundaries. (a few treats -but not a 'dig-in' mentality) Other kids got yelled at --that didn't happen in their home. They would have 'talking sessions'.
BACK TO THANKSGIVING: Dad was driving the girls to Boston to visit Hannah -at the mental facility. They were in the car. Naomi is narrating when she says: "We've been playing peace since we've left the house. What you do is make peace signs through the car windows and keep track of how many people peace you back. I don't understand how anyone could not be for peace, but Dad says it's more complicated than I understand and has to do with people's political views on Nixon and Vietnam and patriotism."
This novel takes place during "The Age of Aquarius"...(SING LOUD and bop your Peace signs around to the beat), lol, Other favorite song choices the author highlighted were: "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder ... David Cassidy...."I Think I love you"... and "Build me Up Buttercup" (Impossible to 'not' hum this song, right?)
Once at the mental facility --things didn't go as 'happy' as the girls hoped. They made their mom a lemon meringue pie hoping her face would light up and she would say, "oh my sweet chicken". It was more a -'sad-dead-rat' look of a face, from mom. She wasn't well. Their 5 minute visit was over.
SPOILER -Mom did eventually come back home --but soon after, she took her own life. The rest of the story is 'what happens' after.
Naomi and Joey (mostly her best friend & 'small' girl/boy crush), run away together. They do come back. Joey returns to his 'dysfunctional' family. Yeah, we know he has been abused --but somehow manages to remain 'kind'. His older brothers are bullies (we assume much like their father). Naomi returns to her family --with her dad and Rachel. -- We are left to imagine how life might be for them in 5 years -10 years --etc... Its my opinion--This little family will recover. It won't be easy --but they will each thrive in life again. Maybe the father will re-marry again one day. Either way --the girls have a strong base. Their nest was beautiful for many years. Its their time to fly. May they thrive! May we all keep flying and thriving!
5 stars GREAT MIDDLE SCHOOL BOOK....(eve better to read with parents)...'discuss' it!
FIRST REVIEW: 4 stars A Netgalley book, (Thanks and appreciation: ALWAYS!)
I immediately felt a pull towards this Middle School Book. I looked up the author's website (BEAUTIFUL) ---which 'added' to my desire to want to begin reading. And so I did....
.....I read the first half last night (which I thought was 'sweet & tender), I finished the last half this morning. (which I have mixed feelings about). This is a very sad story!
....I didn't feel emotionally satisfied with the ending. I'm not even saying it was a BAD ending ---I'm just saying I didn't like how I felt.
I wasn't prepared to re-visit personal painful childhood memories. There were major parallels in this story which were 'real' for me in my childhood. Old visuals kept coming back to me --'my own' tears felt fresh.
Books touch us --and sometimes a writer just happens to write a story that just feels 'too real'. (we know: we lived it) It hurts to remember --
That said, its a page-turning well written novel with loveable characters. It still feels to me as though the ending was not complete --but maybe part 2 is coming? A question for the author.
The vibrancy of the birds & nature took on an unpretentious language of its own. NOTE: I happen to love birds myself ---'Phil & Lil' sit beside me, perching sweet-bird sounds as I type these last words.
NEST is a great joy to read, and wondrous in its way of bringing us into the character of Chirp, an 11 year old girl on Cape Cod whose mother (a dancer) has M.S. The voice of Chirp is so engaging and honest, and her relationships with her friend Joey and her family are so real, the pacing of the story so graceful and well-done, that the book pulls you along, in beautiful surges, and you feel sad to let this world go at the end. Ehrlich has done a magnificent job of addressing serious issues with a light, deft, meaningful touch. I recommend this book to middle-grade children and older teenagers alike -- and I think grown-ups will love this novel too, for its wisdom and humanity, its wonderful characterization, and emotional arc. I'm astonished that this is a debut novel, and anticipate superb future writing to come, from this promising new novelist.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a review. This review was originally published on my blog: The Literarium
Eleven-year-old Naomi "Chirp" Orenstein lives with her family in Cape Cod during the 1970s. Chirp's mother develops symptoms of a severe illness that forces her to cease being a dancer. To cope with this family tragedy, Chirp finds comfort in bird watching and her new friend Joey. Together through their new-found friendship, Chirp and Joey discover a wonderful world of their own that brings joy and adventure in the midst of hardship.
If I had to sum up Esther Ehrlich's debut in three words, those words would be charming, heartfelt, and honest. Wait; I need a fourth word: magical. This was a charmingly magical read full of honesty written in heartfelt prose. Chirp's voice is authentic to an eleven-year-old girl and the tone and style with which her character is developed is believable. As I follow Chirp while she deals with the tragedy that has fallen on her family, I find myself genuinely caring about what happens to them. I can't imagine going through what she does at her age.
Importantly, Ehrlich focuses on what defines a healthy family, what it means to even be a family through Chirp's. Particularly, for all of Chirp's father's attempts to be a "fully-functioning" family, there are moments where he forgets to stop applying his formulaic therapist parenting techniques on Chirp as he does his other daughter Rachel. Chirp is different, and he doesn't get it. In moments like this that appear in the novel, even though I'm well into adulthood, I can still relate to the feeling that your parents just don't "get" you and how you feel about things--especially at Chirp's age. However, in spite of these few frustrating moments (we're supposed to feel that way I think), the dynamic between Chirp and her mother are simply beautiful, accentuated by Ehrlich's prose. Ehrlich also expertly handles the "tragedy" that this novel begins with, and she clearly explores how it affects Chirp. We see her family, the things she finds joy in, and so on are her "nest," and the birdwatching is a nice mirror used to help Chirp grow out of hardship. I wish I could say more without spoiling the story!
I definitely believe this is a book that parents and their children should read together; it's full of moments that adults and kids alike can appreciate and learn from. So, if you're looking for a read that will give you a case of the feels; if you're looking for a book to share with your children; or if you're a kid looking to find something to share with your parents, pick up this book!
It has been a while since I have picked up and read a book targeted for the middle schooler. Loved this family, all their flaws, their love, questions. The MS angle was the attraction for me and I felt the author did a wonderful job making this a story that this age group could identify with. School, friends, peer pressure, identity and loVe and family. Well written and well done.
Esther Ehrlich has written one of the best books of the season. Nest is listed as a middle grade book but it has a lot to teach all of us. The language is rich and powerful. The story line is deceptively simple.
Chirp is the main character. She is entranced with birds and dancing. She lives on Cape Cod with her family in a seemingly quite idyllic life. But as we know seemingly can change abruptly – and it does. With her mother’s diagnosis of MS, the story becomes more complex and Chirp’s world changes. Esther Ehrlich has written a beautiful story about how life changes and figuring out a new reality is not easy.
I really enjoyed reading Nest by Esther Ehrlich. I felt that the story was powerful and evocative. This is a book I will suggest to my fellow teachers in the middle grades. It is also one I would use in a classroom with the right group of students.
This book kept me awake two nights in a row. On the second night, I was up crying. So, I looked pretty awful in the morning, but the story was worth the rough morning. I loved every minute of this book!
I usually hate comparing one book to others, but sometimes you just feel it. So, Nest feels like Bridge to Terabithia meets Are You There, God? It's me, Margaret. But, it also reminded me of Then and Now, the movie from my tween days. The 1972 setting is filled with music from earlier decades that helps create a feeling for the quiet neighborhood where most of the story takes place.
Chirp is a lovable sixth grader from a loving family. She's confident, creative, and smart. Her world turns upside down when her mother gets sick, and she finds comfort in a new friend, Joey, and bird watching. I particularly enjoyed Chrip's relationship with her older sister, Rachel. Their relationship reminded me of my real-life relationship with my own older sister. Chirp and Rachel clearly love one another, but they have a hard time being friends and struggle to support one another through hard times.
I find that the more I love a book the less I want to share in a review. I want readers to experience the entire book for themselves. So, please, pick this one up and enjoy it!
BEYOND FIVE STARS !!SPOILERS!!! Ugh, I saw this this book reviewed by someone and remembered that I read it a while ago, so I decided to rate/review it. I was assigned to read a book for school, this was around 7 years ago. A couple days back, my mom bought this book from this bookshop, so I was like, fuck it, why not. AND O MY FUCKING GOD WAS I TRAUMATIZED!!!! I was in elementary school around the time, and I don't really think this book is for elementary schoolers. Nest is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. It deals with trauma, relationships, backstabs, betrayal. I loved chirp so much because, at the time, I think I could relate to her. I was very lonely, dealing with so many things. She was my idol because she was so strong. the saddest part of this book is the relationship with her mother. Not because they had a bad relationship, but because when her mother died, it was like Chirp lost her best friend. And don't even get me started on the dancer bun part. Basically, chirps mom always wore this dancer's bun, but after her death, Chirp saw that Rachel, her sister, started wearing the dancer bun. Chirp got angry and thought Rachel was trying to replace their mother. I've never lost somebody, but I could just understand what Chirp was feeling in that scene. It's hard to replace your best friend, especially when she was your only friend. What's even worse is that everything felt so really. Children really do go through this terrible shit, and they have these reactions. It doesn't have to be death. Most children are broken after their parent's divorce or when they're being fought over for custody. That's what truly broke me. I really hope no one ever has to endure what Chirp did.
Naomi Orenstein is nicknamed “Chirp” because of her love of birds and bird-watching. Her sister Rachel and her father are close, and Chirp enjoys a special bond with her mother, a former dancer.
Chirp’s home life is turned upside down when her mother succumbs to depression after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. No one acts the same anymore—not her mother, not her father, and not her older sister. It’s up to Chirp to make sense of this new world, along with some help from her neighbor and friend, Joey.
Nest feels less like a book, and more like a slice of life. The characters are nuanced and three-dimensional. The characters don’t need to describe their pain—we experience the pain through the actions they take.
The shift in family dynamics is particularly poignant. The Orenstein family members try to maintain a sense of status quo, but it’s impossible for things to ever be the same again. What seemed immutable is no longer possible, so on the one hand they lash out at each other, but on the other, they also rely on each other more than they ever had before.
The friendships are just as compelling. Dawn, a girl who always insists on sitting next to Chirp on the bus, supports Chirp with small gestures that prove to be tremendously moving.
But most of all, I enjoyed the friendship between Chirp and Joey. Joey isn’t the unconditionally sweet friend or the mini hero in shining armor—he’s a real kid with his own problems and his own insecurities. His friendship with Chirp isn’t always an easy one (and sometimes it feels as though maybe they aren’t friends), but you know the two do genuinely care for each other, and are expressing their love the only way they know how.
Nest is touching without being manipulative nor maudlin. Nest is infused with a realness that feels at once complicated (such as the changes that come with life) yet simple (the love and connection between people). It’s a middle-grade book I recommend for all ages.
I received a digital review copy of the book via Netgalley, courtesy of Wendy Lamb Books.
This coming of age story is smoothly written and authentic, filled with nostalgia for those of us who grew up in the 1970s and remember The Brady Bunch and the novelty of Pop Tarts. It packs a powerful punch, too, unlike so many YA and children's books that center around a fairly innocuous premise, like getting past being a new kid. This story deals with a difficult subject, a parent who becomes clinically depressed and suicidal.
Also, the heroine is a bird watcher, wise for her years, thoughtful and sensitive. Her own "nest" is a sanctuary in time of emotional distress. Sadly, our fledgling is forced from the nest long before anyone should have to fly solo.
I'm mortified that child abuse was so common, so under-reported and misunderstood in the 1970s, but equally mortified that Ehrlrich has an adult promising an abused child, "You won't get hurt, I promise." Right. And how does the nice adult intend to make sure of that?
I've debated whether to knock one star off because I've read too many books where adolescents decide to hit the road without telling anyone where they're going. Romanticizing the trope of running away may have appealed to me before I became a mother of three, but now I just get annoyed when I see it again. Giving credit it where it is due, Ehrlrich does a good job of showing the angst and trepidation of one of the runaways.
A surprise twist at the end really isn't surprising at all -- for adult readers -- but it's a great, great scene, almost too sad for me to bear, yet it's spot-on. I'm gratified that when the brave bird-watching girl crumples, a parent is there for her. I wish it were so for all children.
Rich in detail, depressing in its real-life authenticity, but ultimately triumphant, this novel is one I can endorse. Somehow it seems more women's fiction than children's or YA. I'm curious to see how the market will bear it out.
I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Whew. That was a journey.
You know how certain books make an incredible impact on your life because of what you're experiencing when you read them? Yeah, that's what happened here. I was intrigued from the time I saw this book's page on Netgalley. Serious middle-grade fiction set in 1972? Yes, please. Despite this, I pretty much forgot about the book until yesterday, when I received an e-mail from one of the book's publicists asking if I planned to do a review. I replied that I would try to read the novel over the weekend.
I opened this book yesterday as the faintest bit of Fall crept into the air and the memory of August rested heavily on my mind. I tore through the pages with a vigor I haven't felt for a novel in a long, long time.
Esther Ehrlich wove an interesting story for an interesting category - literary fiction for middle-grade readers. Throw in some amazingly authentic characters (Chirp was marvelous - at last, an mg character who seems relatable, not only to the book's target audience, but to readers of all ages) and an admirable portrayal of mental illness (I commend the author for tackling the subject in a such a frank way - this, for me at least, was the absolute highlight of the novel) and you have a modern classic for the ages.
I honestly can't recommend Nest enough. I'll definitely be buying a hard copy on release day.
I received a free copy from netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
In my experience, children and middle grade books tend to leave readers with unrealistic expectations of happily ever after. This book, however, painted a realistic, deeply emotional picture of just how painful and difficult life can be. I really connected with the characters--especially Chirp--and empathized as she walked through her own personal darkness. In addition, each character was well developed and even the minor characters had an important story to tell. I loved the blooming friendship between Chirp and Joey. There was one line in particular that really resonated with me and captured the essence of friendship: "... you can keep someone company without ruining their privacy." I also loved the significance of the nest and thought it brilliantly portrayed the basic human need for security. I found this book to be very touching and would not be surprised to see it shortlisted for a Newberry medal.
I shelved this book as historical fiction because it takes place in 1973, but it's really a timeless book. Chirp and Joey are memorable characters and the story is beautiful. This is the perfect book for my 6th grade girls who are confident readers, but not interested in edgier YA fare, yet.
This sounded like a very heartfelt and emotional read and it absolutely was. Glad I picked it up. Was in the mood for a middle grade for a fast read but decided to go in this direction instead of the more adventure and fun type of books.
This is a story about loss and a child's method for trying to cope with the news that her mom has multiple sclerosis, lives through mom's time in a mental health facility, then learns of the death of her mother by suicide. Her father and sister are unable to help her regain her equilibrium following these traumatic happenings. Her young misfit next door neighbor who is abused at home joins up with "Chirpie" as this young girl was called by her mother. Together they find "nests" for the two of them that help them to share their problems. Joey and "Chirpie" work together to find sanity when everything seems to be falling down on top of them. What a great story to help children realize that the things that seem like a dead end in their lives can lead to a resolution to bring things back around to a new chance at life. I received an advance copy courtesy of Net Galley. Thanks for this opportunity to find more books that deal with the tragedy of death in a healthy way.
This is the tragic story of Chirp a young girl whose dancer mother gets multiple sclerosis (MS). I don't want to spoil it, but Ehrlich doesn't hold back when it comes to writing a tragedy for young readers. She trusts that kids can handle the absolute worst case scenario. Yet as sad as it is, Ehrlich expertly weaves in dancing, innocence and hope in a way that makes this book...dare I say it...enjoyable. It's heavy, heavy stuff, folks, but Chirp is a character you can't help loving to hang out with. The absolute best thing about this book is Chirp's relationship with a boy named Joey--her neighbor and classmate. All the secondary characters in this book are extremely well developed, but Joey is particularly special. The friendship these two form is one of the best ever written in the pages of fiction. Chirp and Joey are worth your last box of tissues. Net Galley was kind enough to grant me a look at this book.
Nest is a moving, honest, and captivating book that, although published as a middle grade book, is also a great read for adults. The author captures the voices of all her characters, and this is one of the book’s great strengths. Chirp resonates as a 6th grade girl who, while upbeat, is nonetheless forced to confront some tough family issues. Joey is a delight and complex. The other members of Chirp’s family are likewise nuanced and real. This beautifully written book will move whoever reads it. It certainly moved me.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I loved this book so much. It is truly an honest, authentic representation of childhood, even as Chirp deals with incredibly difficult circumstances that force her into early maturity. The characters were believable and lovable, and Ehrlich made me wish I had a friend like Joey. I will recommend this book to all the kids I know, as well as many of the adults. It is a stunning debut novel.
Source - Net Galley ( I received an ARC via Kindle for a honest review)
Naomi Chirp Orenstein, her sister Rachel and her parents lived a somewhat charmed and sheltered life in Cape Cod during the turbulent Nixon years. The political upheaval and war that is inflaming the majority of the country are nothing but dinner table discussions. What is the next school dance or play and what to plant in the garden this season seem to be of more importance in their small town. Chirp, nicknamed for her love of birds, knows the ins and outs of her small town. The people to talk to and the people not to. Joey is one of the people not to talk to. He and his brother are blamed for most of what happens in their small town. As Chirp's father says, Joey comes from a family with "significant issues". All of this is about to change for young Chirp and her family. All of it in a manner she could not have imagined.
"...When you were born, I swore that you'd have an easier path than me. My mother caused me so much pain, and sometimes I feel like it's swallowing me up. I swore that, for you, it would be different. And now..." Mom takes a breath. "And now..." She slowly pushes each word out, like it's stuck in her mouth. "You-have-a-sick-mother..."
Chirp's mother has MS, and in this time the treatment takes a terrible toll on her. And on her daughters as they watch their mother try to fight off the sickness. They watch as their vibrant mother who loved to dance struggle to walk and rise from the bed. Both girls handle it differently. Rachel, already a rebellious and distrustful teenager of the seventies rebels in a shell of anger. Chirp does what she knows. What she has seen the birds do, and she nests to protect herself and her mother. But the illness is only the start. For it is not only the physical damage of the disease that ravages Chirp's mother. The emotional and mental toll take the final share and she falls into a deep and debilitating depression. A depression she cannot find her way out of and Chirp's father makes the hardest decision he can. A decision his girls cannot understand or forgive him for. He puts Chirp's mother in a mental institution.
"...Yes, Naomi," she says. "Mom's in the hospital. But not just any hospital. The loony bin. The nuthouse. Our mom is in the nuthouse in Boston." Rachel tips her head to the side and gives me the angriest fakey smile I've ever seen. "Any more questions?" I shake my head no. The rock is so heavy inside me that I can't stand up. I'm stuck here on the toilet, because I can't stand up..."
What follows for Chirp is a rollercoaster of heartache and heart break that no child should have to face. With her blossoming friendship with Joey she tries to face the tragedy unfolding around her. But Joey has his own pains and demons to work through. How can you be a good person when everyone expects the worse of you. Joey is living in a town that will never give him the chance to be a good person. Chirp's father finds himself forced to be both father and mother to his daughters and failing at both. Emotionally and financially he is breaking under the strain. And Rachel, a young teenage girl, is suddenly needed to be a woman far before her time.
"...For the first time, I get it. Mom was her mom, too..."
Chirp must find a way to go on and the safe world her parents built around her crumbles away.
I am torn between giving this novel four, or five stars, and leaning ever so much into the five star range but for me it must stay at four stars. That though, is a reflection of my tastes in writing than in the novel itself. First off I have to say Esther Ehrlich does an amazing job with the pace and narrative of this novel. And she has the courage to maintain the narrative in the voice of Chirp, a young child in a very grown up tragedy. Ehrlich does not waver from this. She does not suddenly give Chirp the comprehension and the ability to assimilate what is happening to her family as an adult because the unfolding tragedy calls for it. No, she tells the tale through the eyes, the thoughts, the emotions of a very young girl whose mother is dying, physically and emotionally right before her very eyes. There are no potions, no magical remedies, no witch's brew in this tale to save the moment. Chirp's mother will not suddenly get well. Instead Ehrlich will take her character into even darker territory. Again, a very courageous and gifted writer. I understand that this book may be aimed YA readers and I will cry out that this is a mistake. This book is for YA, Adult and all readers. Yes the main character is a young girl but what Chirp goes through is just as important to an adult as it is to a young teen. Adults need understand that children process pain, grief and loss just as intensely as adults do even though they seem to be doing it so differently. Four stars not five. Only because this is not my kind of book. Did I enjoy it? I really don't know. I do know that I had to know what happened next and why. Chirp. Rachel. Their Parents and Joey became important. They became real and I also know that I will not forget them soon. They made me feel and that is a blessed thing. A writer using her gift so very well. I will not forget Chirp and her family and friends soon and honestly, I hope I never do. An excellent read.
One of the many challenges for upper elementary and middle school Language Arts teachers is finding timely books with age appropriate characters and thought provoking themes, yet won’t spur parents to demand the principal to pull it off the shelf because of graphic violence, profanity or sex. Nest, by Esther Ehrlich, is a book that adults will approve of and young readers will love.
Set in 1972, the story centers on Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein. She and her father, mother and sister Rachel are year-round residents of Cape Cod, and the novel starts at the end of summer. At the beginning of the tale the Orensteins are a happy family; Dr. Orenstein has a therapy practice on the Cape, the girls get along well, and Hannah, the mother, is a former dancer who stays active in local dance recitals. Chirp, who gets her nickname because of her penchant for birds and bird watching, becomes friends with new neighbor and 6th grade classmate Joey Morell, whose parents often lock him out of the house.
Chirp’s idyllic world is soon shattered when her mother ,diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, falls into deep depression, and the story delves into darker themes of betrayal and grief. Yet Ehrlich skillfully balances this novel with resilience and hope while dealing with issues such as bullying, disease, child abuse, and suicide. Levity is provided through Chirp’s authentic voice, her passion for birds and her interactions with others.
Because the story takes place during the Vietnam War era, a time before cell phones and cable TV, it may be classified as historical, yet its themes are timeless. (Random House provides links to teaching tools.) The book stays true to an eleven year-old point of view where life hovers between childhood and adulthood, yet within that child’s lens is Chirp’s growing awareness of the world’s truths.
It would not surprise me to see this debut novel shortlisted for a Newbery or ALA award. I hope Ms. Ehrlich is working on more books for young readers so I can recommend them to my teaching colleagues. Nest is available September 9, 2014, for grades 4-8.
Esther Ehrlich’s powerful and elegant debut novel, Nest, is a story of loss and renewal set near a salt marsh in Cape Cod in 1972. As the story begins, eleven-year-old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein takes a shortcut home from her favorite bird-watching spot and meets up with her spunky neighbor Joey Morrell, who is throwing rocks at a telephone pole. Within their conversation, Joey happens to ask, “Is your mom’s leg okay?” Chirp answers, “Not really.” In this moment of foreboding we learn that something about Chirp’s cozy, familiar world is about to change and not for the better. Unlike Joey, who comes from a more troubled background, Chirp relies on the strength, warmth and closeness of those in her “nest”: her older sister Rachel, her father, a psychiatrist, and her graceful mother, who had been a dancer before her recent illness took hold. Chirp will need her strong family bonds to help her through a challenging year.
Nest is a book to make you both laugh and cry. Chirp and Joey are funny, plucky, and emotionally honest. They are well-formed characters and the author’s fluid, deft prose makes us care about them. Ehrlich’s a natural storyteller with a great gift for kid humor and an ear for dialogue. I love the way Joey yells “Cowabunga!” and Chirp always returns, “Bowacunga!” I love the psychiatrist father’s jargon as he tells his children what’s what. The author also uses Yiddish expressions in a delightful way. In addition to its even blend of humor and tragedy, this novel also contains some fine nature writing.
I love this book. May it go on to win huge awards and many accolades. Congratulations to Esther Ehrlich for writing such a wonderful book!
I read this book in the mindset that I'd think about my students, and which grade level the book would be appropriate for. While I think I accomplished that task, I couldn't help but bring some of my own life experiences to the table while reading.
Told from the perspective of sixth grade Chirp, this book is heavy, honest, and has a lot going on. Chirp, and her sister have to come to terms with the MS diagnosis their mom receives. Their dad, a "head shrinker", does the best he can to help them cope with their feelings.
What I loved most about this book is that there are so many elements worth focusing on. As a teacher or parent, this book could be used to spark discussions about family, loss, tragedy, friendship, abuse, and a myriad of other topics. I would like to see this book in the hands of teachers, librarians, parents, and as many middle grade (and up) readers as would be appropriate.
This book kept me up past my bedtime, and woke me up with lingering questions and concerns for the characters. I loved and cared for them as if I were living in the nest with them all.
I am rating this as the Middle Grade it is classified as... although the writing is solid, very little in this story is anything that would hold a 7-11 year old's attention, and the happenings in the back-half of the book are too mature in nature for a MG age reader to properly grasp. I know most Middle Grade age readers are worriers, especially about the safety of family, and I think the storyline would add to that anxiety. I would not have wanted my son to read this at MG readership age. Plus, most of the '70s pop culture references were pretty much esoteric and would not be understood, nor interesting, to a 7-11 year old. This book would be better rewritten as an adult fictional memoir. I know MG books of this nature can be successfully written because I read one about a young girl's life in the late '60s not too long ago, and I rated it five stars.
I only review books with a rating of four stars, or above, on my blog so you will not see this book there. I was approved for an eARC, on Netgalley, in return for an honest review.
Fantastic first book! I couldn't put it down. I enjoyed the details the author put in about Cape Cod, Boston, and birds. The characters drew you in from the very beginning. I'm glad I was chosen to receive a copy from Net Galley.
I found it absolutely perverse that this book is marketed to children under the guise of a childhood adventure tale. This is no coming-of-age inspirational uplifting story. The book takes the absolute worst tragedies and then fails to arm any vulnerable reader with power to cope if faced with similar trials in their own lives. While the author's writing may be quite lovely, and this book may be captivating and moving to an adult audience, to cover the difficult topics and leave the reader with a stated theme "you can't make grown-ups not do what they're going to do" (p321) when dealing with parent suicide and a child being beaten by their parent is absolutely deplorable! Even if a parent wanted their child to read a book with this subject matter, such as if they knew someone who experienced similar trials, then this would not be the book I'd choose. As the story progresses the helplessness of children in difficult situations is only heightened. The authentic show of compassion or empathy from others is nearly absent, and many situations in the book are vague as to why characters are behaving as they do. It's ironic that the main character is often singing lines from popular 70s songs which almost no child reader today is going to be able to recognize and sing along. It's not helpful to the reader and doesn't foster connection. There are situations where the child is abandoned, the teen daughter put in adult situations at parties and as a substitute parent at home, which are recognizable to adult and teen readers, but would be confusing to a child. The ultimate way for two of the most damaged children to come to deal with the situation is to throw rocks and then run away to a big city. The psychiatrist father is mocked in the book for his efforts to foster connection and meaningful discussion in his family. When his methods don't help his depressed spouse, himself or his daughters, it only further supports the helpless/hopeless theme. The book fosters distrust in adults in general. The support the children characters find is through each other, but their relationships are also shown to be unstable. Ultimately, there is no solid ground or anything fixed and reliable for the children to lean for support and in the end.....There is nothing they can do but try to be friends to each other.
If the book were marketed differently I might be less offended. I felt sickened that children and unsuspecting parents would pick up this book and judging solely from the cover and what's written there, or even the 5 star ratings given by other readers, think that this would be a "normal" children's book to read. (Don't argue that it's marketed to middle grades as though that makes a difference; middle graders are still children, and I found my copy in a children's section.) I think it can do great damage to read about suicide and abuse in a way that doesn't give hope or power to make a difference or reinforce a feeling there is a place they can turn for support. If these are issues that today's kids are really facing and can relate to, then why read about it just to relate or be more fully immersed in those feelings in a non-ideal way? At some points the author's descriptive writing gets a little to close to romanticizing the suicide. If the goal is to assist readers in growing in compassion or empathy by reading this, the situations in the book might have been told in a warm and caring way, not through situations that left the main characters feeling greater isolation. In this way the book was far too cynical. There is nothing on the cover or jacket or comments on back to indicate the level of the difficult subject matter, but only hints at life feeling too hard. As to the comfort "Chirp" finds in watching birds? That only reinforces everything about the book I've already said. Her observations about birds mirrors her emotional state and is more of a metaphorical tool. If anything, the dancing in the book was the most therapeutic example.
This book, and this author, did a lot of things well. It's a sad book -- we learn at the very beginning, if we have somehow missed the jacket copy, that protagonist Chirp's mother has just had a bad diagnosis -- but for the most part it's never maudlin. There is also a lot of hope, not least because Chirp herself is so thoroughly developed. Her relationship with Joey from across the road, and her ruminations on being a year-rounder on the Cape, not to mention a Jew on the Cape in that era, are interesting and coherent.
Chirp's narrative voice is really good, also. I believed in her from the start. There are many places in the book where the voice could have failed -- or where the constant talk of birds could have become an infodump -- but generally the voice works. Chirp works.
I did have two small issues and one small confusion, though. Issue one: as the back-of-book copy says, there's a tragic thing. I thought it happened too quickly, and the actual dialogue around it felt kind of rushed and uncomfortable (and not in the way that a tragedy could make things rushed and uncomfortable). The second issue is that in a book with some really strong character development -- beyond Chirp, her sister Rachel is really thoughtfully described, as is Joey from acrosss the road, and even Chirp's teacher/nemesis -- the dad character seemed kind of weak (this may have been deliberate). My confusion is that I somehow got the impression that this is a YA book (not sure where I got that impression), but it really feels much more like a Middle Grade. But that might just be me.
Generally -- it's a really strong debut, and I enjoyed it. I thought Chirp was awesome, and I loved her love for birds. (And Joey was really great too.)
Beautifully written, heartfelt and emotional. Ehrlich has wonderfully captured the voice of a young girl going through family turmoil and tragedy. (My one complaint might be that the main character, Chirp, comes off a little younger than she's billed - 4th grade, maybe, rather than 6th.) The secondary characters are vivid and well-rounded, particularly her sister Rachel, who is struggling with being a teenager on top of the painful events at home; her father, a man who clearly adores his family but is confounded by these problems he can't therapist-ize his way through; and Joey, Chirp's neighbor and friend who has home troubles of his own but remains remarkably empathic and supportive.
This is a pretty heavy book, very heart-breaking at times, but any fans of somewhat gritty realistic fiction (think "Counting by 7s," "Number the Stars," "Where the Red Fern Grows," etc), kids OR adults, are sure to love it.