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Blackbird Fly

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Future rock star, or friendless misfit? That’s no choice at all. In this debut tween novel, twelve-year-old Apple grapples with being different; with friends and backstabbers and following her dreams.

Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to Louisiana from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods, makes mistakes with her English, and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” It becomes unbearable in middle school, when the boys—the stupid, stupid boys—in Apple’s class put her name on the Dog Log, the list of the most unpopular girls in school. When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show how special she really is.

296 pages, Hardcover

First published March 24, 2015

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About the author

Erin Entrada Kelly

18 books1,500 followers
Author of books for young people.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 486 reviews
Profile Image for Sue.
781 reviews1,590 followers
October 17, 2015
I’ve been terribly busy lately. Hence, why this mini review took so much longer to write. But, I promise myself I had to do it.

Blackbird Fly is a very difficult story to read. It is not because it is poorly written, or in any way that you think, but because it challenges me as a person.

The protagonist of the story, Apple is much more than a character I could relate to. A Filipino main character who migrated in the US at an early age, is currently having a mid-life crisis figuring herself out. That was me. I was her in Elementary and throughout High School, even now when I’m in my early twenties, I could still see Apple flaring within me every once in a while. Identically and culturally speaking, we are very much attuned. That never happened to me before. I rarely see myself and my culture get represented in any medium, I consumed. This is why, I’m bloody terrific to have Blackbird Fly in my life.

Blackbird Fly follows the story of Apple Yengko, an aspiring musician. Having moved to Louisiana from the Philippines when she was little, she always felt estranged by her Filipino roots. Her mother expects her to embrace her culture, but Apple always feels she’s inadequate to belong.

In a meanwhile, her friends ditch her after learning she is part of the “Dog Log”, a list of the least attractive girls in the school.

Honestly, I don’t have anything much to say about this book, aside from my in depth analysis of the racism, discrimination and the diaspora we regularly experience. So if you want to stop reading now, you should go ahead. In other words, YES, you should definitely get it, especially if you want to read something that doesn’t conform to Middle Grade’s white kid woes.

As I already lamented above, Apple has a difficult time celebrating her culture. According to our default’s standard, her mom has an accent that isn’t pleasing to the ears. She still cooks food that would be considered unappealing, and so on. That cause, an understandably embarrassment from Apple’s side. All of her friends are white and they necessarily don’t understand her culture. For the most part, they doesn’t want to.

Most of the kids in her school subjected her to vicious taunts about her identity. Apple has been called “dog eater”, because she’s Asian. Her identity is constantly ripped off from her, kids often interchange her ethnicity with others. This is not a surprising scenario. White children are just as brutal with their minority alienation as much as their parents and forefathers. Which reminds me, how do white children learn racism and hurtful remarks? Did they heard it from the medium they regularly consume or do they constantly hear it from their parents and adults around them?

Blackbird Fly has a very special place in my heart. It makes me even more thankful to my parents, who sacrificed a great deal of things, so we could live a comfortable life.
Profile Image for Jillian .
441 reviews1,814 followers
September 10, 2016
i fucking loved this. it's an adorable, uplifting coming age of story. and i found myself bursting into tears from time to time because the main character is a filipino girl. to finally read from the pov of someone who is like me who i can relate to 10000% on so many levels. this was a book i needed when i was growing up. this was the book i needed for so long. i cannot wait to read more from this author. i just absolutely loved this.
Profile Image for Gisbelle.
770 reviews219 followers
November 7, 2014
My thanks to Greenwillow Books & Edelweiss

Point of View: Single (Analyn/Apple)
Writing: First Person | Past Tense
Setting: Louisiana
Genre: Middle Grade | Realistic Fiction

I still cannot believe I ended up loving this book because at first I thought the whole thing was just so not interesting. I'm not one of those who love to read about girls at such a young age being all boy-crazy and whose main goal in life is to be one of the popular. I'm glad it turned out to be such a beautiful book, though.

Analyn, who was also known as Apple, was not a character that made me fall in love with right from the start. I couldn't blame her for being conscious of what others thought of her because she was just a little girl and being different (since she was a Filipina) didn't help either. Nonetheless, it bugged me to some extent that she let those people affect her and the way she handled the problem wasn't ideal. So it's safe to say I wasn't her biggest fan at the time. Later on, though, I couldn't help loving Apple. She became a vibrant character and I just loved her.

Evan, the new kid, was another reason to love this book. There wasn't anything I didn't like about this little boy. He was just way too awesome and mature for a young kid. He was funny too, so yeah, he was perfect.

The writing was great as the flow from one scene to the next was smooth and the author had a way to keep things interesting, which made the story flew by pretty fast. I also loved that there were parts about Filipino culture added in the book; it was pretty neat to be able learn new culture and enjoy the book at the same time.

In short, it was an exceptional book about bullying, true meaning of friendship and being comfortable in your own skin. I adored the message, the storyline and the characters. I think it's a great book for everyone to enjoy, especially young people.
Profile Image for Gail Nall.
Author 7 books103 followers
November 28, 2014
Ah, this book! I love a good, realistic, no-holds-barred MG, and this is definitely one. The main character, Apple, struggles to fit in with her "friends" at school, and some of these scenes are so very real that they're almost hard to read. Such a great, diverse book! Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Josiah.
3,220 reviews146 followers
March 18, 2023
Debut novels are special, particularly for authors who went on to become famous. What was that first published effort like from a storyteller who eventually set the world on fire with her writing? What does a lifetime of pent-up creativity look like when it finally spills onto the page for the world to marvel at? Though Erin Entrada Kelly's second novel attracted favorable reviews and her third (Hello, Universe) won the Newbery Medal as the most distinguished American juvenile book of 2017, Blackbird Fly in my opinion is superior to both, comparable to some of the best children's books of its era. I consider it on the same level as Clare Vanderpool's Moon Over Manifest, Marion Dane Bauer's Little Dog, Lost, and Peter Brown's The Wild Robot, all legitimate Newbery candidates in their respective release years. Blackbird Fly is a raw, emotional journey for twelve-year-old Analyn "Apple" Yengko that the reader is sure to identify with. The exhilaration of being swept along by a narrative like a rushing river is part of this book's DNA, making it a pleasure to read even when the story's events are as uncomfortable as the low moments of real life. It's an extraordinary artistic achievement.

Apple has lived in the United States ever since she and her mother immigrated from the Philippines when Apple was little, after her father died. Her mother is strict, insistent that nothing get between Apple and a serious education. This puts a crimp in Apple's social life; kids aren't comfortable hanging out at a friend's house where not only is foreign food served, but the mother has no sense of humor. Apple is fortunate to have Gretchen and Alyssa as friends at school, two fairly popular girls who eat lunch with her every day. Apple's strongest personal ambition is music-related, in honor of her late father. It was his love of the Beatles that Apple clung to when she arrived in America. She listens to the band's albums over and over, memorizing their songs and imagining herself playing guitar and writing blockbuster music. Apple begs her mother for a guitar, but she delays the decision or refuses every time. Academics are important, she chides, not music. Apple should search for fulfillment inside the classroom.

This uneasy balance between dreaming and studying has held steady so far, but the calm waters of elementary school turn choppy as sixth grade begins. Alyssa and Gretchen are fixated on popularity and being attractive to boys, and Apple's reputation takes a huge hit when she's put on the "Dog Log", a consensus ranking of the least-attractive girls in sixth grade. Apple never considered herself gorgeous, but she never thought she was ugly, either. Why do the boys consider her one of the ten least-appealing girls in their grade? Is it her slanted eyes or light brown skin? Alyssa and Gretchen suddenly seem nervous at being associated with Apple. In a matter of days, she goes from a girl with friends to an outcast. It stings badly when the boys call her a "dog-eater" because of her Asian heritage and bark at her in the halls, but Alyssa and Gretchen's cruelty hurts a lot more. How did sixth grade become such a nightmare?

Dropping to the lowest social level with Heleena, the most overweight girl in school, wasn't Apple's plan for middle school. Shunned by everyone, Apple fantasizes about running away to New Orleans, learning to play guitar, and setting up shop as a street performer. No one there would have any idea what a Dog Log is. Then a new kid enrolls in Apple's school, having just moved here from California. Evan Temple has quirks, but he's harmless, unlike the girls Apple recently considered her friends. Evan is a voracious reader, and doesn't mind hanging out with Apple in the library at lunch. Neither of them have friends to sit with, anyway. Evan is observant and witty, but he's a little too counterculture to fit in with the cool kids, and he's okay with it. He had a Filipino friend in California, so he doesn't see Apple's ethnicity as weird, and she doesn't have to beg him to believe she doesn't eat dogs. He's even comfortable with her mother, whose foreign traits have always put Apple on edge when her friends were around. What if they resented Apple because she doesn't have a typical American mom?

With Evan stoking the flame of Apple's creativity, she musters the courage to speak to Mr. Z, the school music teacher, about giving her guitar lessons. Apple never would have taken the chance of rejection without Evan's encouragement; she doesn't even own a guitar, and knows her mother is against her getting one. How can anyone master an instrument without having it in their hands? But Mr. Z surprises Apple, as Evan had a hunch he would. He's willing to lend her a guitar. At long last, Apple has the opportunity to follow in her father's footsteps and learn what richness music can add to her life, if she can keep her borrowed instrument out of her mother's sight. Strumming the sweet strings of her guitar sets Apple's soul free, but it's more than the blissful acoustic harmony that eases her pain. Just as important is having a friend like Evan, who cares more about the shape of her personality than the shape of her eyes. Evenings on the front porch discussing music and life have a different energy in the company of a fun, reliable friend. Apple's future in middle school and music may be uncertain, but her story isn't turning out too badly after all.

When you're a pariah among your peers, you'll try anything to downplay the differences that drive them away. Apple has been known by that nickname most of her life, but now she tries to convince everyone to call her Analyn. Would not sharing a name with a round, red fruit help her popularity? Even Apple is skeptical. "But what was the point of a new name when everyone knows who you really are?" Her physical Filipino characteristics are clear to see, and everyone in school knows about her inclusion on the Dog Log. A fresh name won't change the way people already look at you. Releasing the music in her heart would be a better way to prove herself an interesting person, but her mother shuts down Apple's attempts to get plugged into music. She's a woman of caution, which shows in a saying she's often repeated. "When you say something out loud, it makes it a big truth. Best to keep it in your mind and keep it small". Apple's mother has tried to forget the life they left behind in the Philippines, afraid the grief over her husband's death would haunt them both. She ignores Apple's argument that she can't be happy without finding out if she has musical talent, preventing her daughter from discovering the person she is becoming. Apple recognizes that earning good grades in school is important, but music would nourish her intellect, not steal from it. Having a well-rounded life and mind means delving as deeply into art as academics, and neglecting that balance won't bring Apple an optimal future. We all need a variety of interests to spice up life, a palette of many colors to paint our story. The closer Apple gets to finding her potential in music, the happier she is.

The potency of Blackbird Fly is in Apple's swift, surreal descent into being despised almost universally at school. The narrative always stays a step ahead of where we think it is. When you're suddenly hated by people who liked you, it's a nightmarish feeling, and this book cultivates it impeccably. Whether or not you did anything to provoke the disdain, the shame is intense, and even enduring Apple's alongside her is uncomfortable. Evan is a crucial release to the pressure valve, a bright spot parting the clouds. His opinions are honest, thoughtful counsel for Apple in these trying times. Once, she asks him why he stood up to a boy who was harassing her. The kid was a lot bigger than Evan; wasn't he scared? "No," Evan says. "Why would I be? He might be bigger than me, but he's dumb." When Apple points out that dumbness wouldn't have shielded Evan from harm, he shrugs and says, "Let's say he broke my nose. Big deal. My nose will recover, but he'll still be dumb." That simple truth is the key to peace when you're accosted by a confederacy of dunces. They may inflict damage, even grievous damage, but you'll heal in time. Long after you've recuperated, they'll still be prisoner to their own ignorance. When he said those words to Apple, I think that's the moment I first loved Evan. He's one of those rare characters who lift the reader's spirit even after the book is finished. Evan again demonstrates his earnest wisdom when Apple says he can't understand being an outsider like she is. He can, though; he points out a few facts that show how out of step he is with his peers. But why don't their barbed words bloody him as they do Apple? Evan sees why. "I don't listen to anything they say, because I know that whatever they think about me is wrong...But you think they're right." It's very hard to not believe the crowd when they bellow that you're no good, that you're ugly or a thief or destined to be a failure. They shout down our responses, delighting in the emotional lacerations they cause. But there's only so much harm they can do if we refuse to believe their lies about us. We know who we are at our core, and if we can hold to that in spite of the shouting, we'll be okay. The opinions of the hateful never paint a truer picture than what we know about ourselves. Coming to terms with that is the biggest test Apple faces.

Of Erin Entrada Kelly's first three books, Blackbird Fly was, to me, far and away the worthy Newbery Medal recipient, a novel I would have been overjoyed to see bear that shiny gold sticker on the front cover. I definitely rate it three and a half stars. The themes are rich and complex, the writing fast-paced and efficient, the characters all realistic vessels for the sparkling narrative that flows through them. Apple's feelings are universal to people who have ever been rejected and reviled, reminding us we're not alone however extreme our circumstances seem. Evan Temple is one of my favorite characters I've read about in years, a fascinating kid whose vocabulary and self-assurance are impressive, but not too good to be true. Most authors miss that mark when dreaming up a character like Evan, but Erin Entrada Kelly scores a bullseye. Thank you for this insightful, deeply felt book, Ms. Kelly. I love it.
Profile Image for Brandy Painter.
1,632 reviews251 followers
February 26, 2015
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly appealed to me for so many different reasons. I am always looking for good, MG school stories, and this is one about an immigration experience as well. It's a good one too with strong characters, excellent themes, and a realism about middle school that made me slightly sick to my stomach.

Analyn, known by her nickname, Apple, moved to the US from the Philippines when she was only four years old. In the years since she has learned a disdain for herself and her mother. She is embarrassed by the food her mother cooks and how she saves every penny. She longs to be more like her American classmates. It is not easy being the only Filipino in her small town Louisiana school. Things get worse when Apple's social climbing friends want to have boyfriends, and it is revealed that Apple has made the school's "Dog Log". Apple hates herself more and more as school becomes even less bearable. Things at home are not much better. All Apple wants to do is learn to play guitar, and her mother won't allow her. Through some new friends, a lot of awful mistakes, and some hard lessons Apple begins to look beyond the small mindset of middle school social dynamics and works hard to make her future dreams a reality.

This book is seriously well done. So well done it actually hurts to read it. Middle school is the worst. I actually had knots in my stomach as I read about Apple's life. The often racist teasing. The yearning to fit in and be the same. The realization that her friends were not behind her. It's a wretched time for anyone and Apple's story conveys that so well. All MG readers will understand Apple on some level. In addition to the typical middle school story we also have Apple's feelings on being an immigrant child. Her embarrassment and resentment of her mother is conveyed so well. This is something else that readers will be able to identify with. What middle schooler isn't embarrassed and resentful of their family? But through Apple's eyes and story, readers will also learn that everyone has a story. The majority of the supporting characters are just as well drawn as Apple and each has a perfect place and moment in her story.

Blackbird Fly is a book about learning who you are and embracing it. I like that it doesn't make everything perfect though. There is one scene that is a bit over the top as far as breakthrough moments go, but it fits so well into where it is in the story and everything else around it is so real, I'm okay with that. And there is no indication that life is sunshine and roses after that. I did feel the end wrapped up a little quickly, but I also like that the books is as short as it is.

I enjoyed reading Blackbird Fly and recommend it to anyone who loves good MG school stories. I will certainly be putting a copy of it in the hands of my daughter.

I read an e-galley made available by the publisher, Greenwillow Books, via Edelweiss. Blackbird Fly goes on sale on March 24th.
Profile Image for Richie Partington.
1,102 reviews129 followers
December 17, 2014
Richie’s Picks: BLACKBIRD FLY by Erin Entrada Kelly, Greenwillow, March 2015, 304p., ISBN: 978-0-06-223861-0

“While you look so sweetly and divine, I can feel you here.
I see your eyes are busy kissing mine, and I do, I do.
Wondering what it is they’re expecting to see,
Should someone be looking at me?”
-- George Harrison, “Let it Down”

“My mother frowned. ‘Your father gave you that nickname.’
“I thought of my father’s name written in black marker on Abbey Road. When you write your name on something, it means it’s really important to you, so it must have been one of his most prized possessions. I always thought that meant he was creative and smart. But if he was so creative and smart, why did he give me such a stupid nickname? Did he ever think about how it would make me feel? Did he ever think about how my name would look when I had to write it on things?
“I swallowed. ‘I don’t care.’ And why should I? The only information I had about my father besides the tape were a few fuzzy memories and a postcard from our island in the Philippines, and that’s not really information, it’s just a picture of where we lived. There aren’t even any people in the picture. Just a white sandy beach and blue water. My mother’s always saying that she moved us to America to have a better life, and I still haven’t figured out how Chapel Spring, Louisiana, is better than a white sandy beach. When we first moved here, I’d stare at the postcard and imagine my mother and father holding hands and standing with their feet in the water, but now I keep in my nightstand under a pile of old notebooks. What’s the point?”

When Apple Yengko was younger, other children were not so outwardly judgmental about Apple being the only Asian-looking kid at school or about her having a heavily-accented mother who cooked differently. But now it is middle school, and many of Apple’s former friends are caught up in impressing boys and each other. No doubt their own insecurities make them feel that it’s a liability to hang with someone different, someone the not-so-bright boys make fun of by claiming she’s a dog-eater, someone who isn’t beautiful in that stereotypical manner.

Things might be different if this was a multicultural-rich metropolis, but Chapel Spring, Louisiana is anything but multicultural rich.

On top of her problems with her peers, Apple’s immigrant mother won’t even discuss Apple’s obsessive desire to get a guitar and learn to play. In her mind, Apple figures that, like her dead hero George Harrison who left school to join The Beatles, Apple can escape Chapel Spring by becoming a great guitarist.

After her friends abandon her, in the wake of Apple’s being listed on the “dog log” (the ugly girls list) that the boys compile, she becoming friends with a Evan, a newly-arrived California boy who sees the local unintellegencia for who they are, and with Heleena, the most despised girl at school--the fat girl--who turns out to be an incredible vocalist. Thanks to a music teacher’s generosity and the support of her new friends, Apple is able to at least make some of her dreams come true.

BLACKBIRD FLY, which is a phrase from the McCartney song “Blackbird,” is a feel-good, there-is-a-better-way book in the same vein as James Howe’s THE MISFITS.
For instance, when a so-called “beautiful” girl is traumatized by being put on the boys’ “hot” list and then having a lot of hormonal boys falsely claiming that they got to “make out” with her, it reminded me of Joe’s cousin Pam in THE MISFITS.

"And in the end, the love you take
Is equal to the love you make."
-- Paul McCartney

Reading BLACKBIRD FLY made me feel really happy.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_... http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/people/facult...
September 3, 2014
I was fortunate enough to recently receive an ARC of Blackbird Fly. This is a middle grade must read. I not only fell in love with the main character Apple Yenko, but also with the way the writer approached each character. Erin Entrada Kelly has a real sense of the way preteens view the world. She is one of the few that hasn't forgotten. I think her young readers may see her as a friend, much in the same way as those of my generation saw Judy Blume.
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
2,084 reviews5,039 followers
March 14, 2023
Whew....grab your tissues for this one. I'm glad that I chose to read Kelly's debut as my first read by her because it makes me excited to see how her writing has progressed in later works. This was such a beautiful story. 4.5 Stars. CW: loss of parent, racial slurs, bullying

Blackbird Fly follows twelve year old Apple who faces the ups and downs of middle school after she is placed on the dog log at school. Not only does Apple consider herself to be different, but she also struggles with the fact that even after moving to the US, her mother still loves too cook Filipino food and doesn't always speak English well. Through a few ups and downs and her love for music, specifically the Beatles, Apple learns to find pride and joy in herself.

What Worked: EVERYTHING. This was such a gut wrenching book for me to read as a mom. There is this small part of me that worries about the troubles my daughter will face once she makes it to middle school. Kids can be cruel at times and readers see that with Apple. From her descriptions of eating carrots because she thought they would fix the slant of her eyes to being considered one of the most unattractive girls at school to being labeled as a dog eater because she's Asian, part of me felt as though Apple just couldn't get a break. But Kelly does this amazing thing where she introduces two additional characters that not only support Apple, but help her rebuild that confidence in herself and pride in her cultural background. Outside of Apple, Evan stole my heart. I remember encountering kids like him throughout my childhood, the ones who don't mind being different and encourage others to be comfortable in their own skin. After Apple "loses" her old friends, it was nice to see that Kelly included characters to give readers that glimpse of joy as Apple begins to see herself differently. This book is also for the music lovers of the world. I really enjoy The Beatles and had no idea that this book was named after their song "Blackbird Fly." There were sections of the book named after their music and I would literally stop reading the book to listen to the song. It was even more rewarding learning more about Apple's connection to their music. She's passionate about their music and learning to play the guitar and doesn't understand why her mother gives her so much pushback against getting her own guitar. The story comes full circle and ends with the most beautiful, heartwarming conclusion.

Overall, this was such a beautiful middle grade book. It definitely will make my favorites of 2023. This is one that a lot of middle grade readers will connect to in special ways. With beautiful writing and extensive character and plot development, this is one that you don't want to miss out on!
Profile Image for Tasha.
4,117 reviews108 followers
March 31, 2015
Apple just doesn’t fit in. Her Filipino mother cooks food that no American kids eat. Plus she is so strict that Apple isn’t allowed to take any music classes at school because it might impact her other more important grades. Apple though desperately wants to learn to play the guitar. When they left the Philippines, she took just one picture and a tape of the Beatles that had belonged to her dead father. Apples does have friends, but once they discover that she is on the Dog Log, a list of the ugliest girls at school, they stop hanging around with her. Apple decides to start saving up for a guitar and as she does that she starts to make new friends, other kids that have been singled out as odd or different. But one misstep with a teacher’s wallet marks Apple as a thief and that is all it takes for her former friends to really turn against her. Apple has to figure out how being different can actually be a very good thing.

This tween novel has a strong mix of a multicultural main character combined with middle school popularity and racism. Kelly does not flinch away from the blatant racism that teenagers can engage in as well as the casual hate that they throw at each other, particularly kids who are different from them. Kelly’s writing has a friendly, straight-forward tone even as she deals with the drama of both middle school and a parent who is over protective. Using music as a language that bridges new friendships and new understandings works particularly well and serves as a backbone for the entire novel.

Apple is a character with lots going on in her life. She faces racism on a daily basis at school and in turn takes it out on her mother, turning her back on much of their Filipino culture. She is embarrassed by her mother and angry at her lack of support for Apple’s musical dreams. As Apple puts together a misguided plan to run away, readers will hope that she finds a way to live in the life that she already has, particularly because they will see how special she is long before Apple can realize it herself.

A great tween read, this book offer complexity and diversity in a story about individuality and friendship. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Profile Image for Kathy Martin.
3,500 reviews80 followers
February 14, 2015
This is the story of middle schooler Apple Yengko. She and her mother emigrated from the Philippines after her father's death when Apple was four. She is the only Filipino in her Southern Louisiana middle school. And middle school is one of her main problems.

Middle school can often be a time of casual cruelty when every kid wants to be just like all the other kids and every kid is sure that everyone is watching them all the time. It can be especially cruel if a kid is outside of the norm in some way. Apple's best friend Alyssa has bought into the myth and is determined to have a boyfriend and be one of the popular crowd. When Apple finds herself on the Dog List - the list of the ugliest girls in school - Alyssa dumps her in a very cruel manner.

Apple wants to be a musician. She is a huge fan of the Beatles and wants to play the guitar like George Harrison. However, her mother refuses to get her a guitar and wants her to concentrate on her schoolwork and getting a good education. Americanized Apple is sometimes embarrassed by her mother who still speaks with an accent, still cooks Filipino foods, and still spouts her Filipino values.

Apple's attitude starts to change when she meets a new boy in school from California named Evan Temple. Evan isn't swept up in the middle grade desire to be life everyone else. He accepts her just like she is and doesn't want her to change. Well, except maybe, to stop letting the crowd influence her. Apple also gets a chance to get to know another girl on the Dog List. Helena has been hiding the fact that she has an amazing voice.

I felt all of Apple's pain as she tried to make a place for herself in her middle school. I also felt a lot of happiness when I saw her deciding to stop letting the crowd set her value.

Middle graders - misfits or not - will see a lot they recognize in Apple's story.
Profile Image for The Library Lady.
3,650 reviews538 followers
March 12, 2016
I waited to review this because I gave it to my 16 year old to read, first. She's got a lot in common with Apple. That includes love of the Beatles and the Filipina connection, though she's only half Filipina ( mestiza), and our Filipino family comes from a more northern part of the Philippines.

My daughter really enjoyed this and so did I.

I do have to say that I found this smacked a little bit of Wonder,a book which I emphatically disliked because I found I just couldn't believe in the plot. There was a bit of wish fulfillment/perfect Hollywood ending here as well. But Apple is a vivid, BELIEVABLE girl, and the "mean girls" element here is so true to life that I found myself wincing in ancient reminiscence of my own jr high days. It was enough to make me feel tearful towards the end--I knew the dramatic scene near the end was hokey, but it was RIGHT.

So the flaws I saw as an adult reader won't mean much to any kid who can empathize with Apple. Good reading,good writing. Salamat, Erin Entrada Kelly for this book!
Profile Image for Sofia The Great.
1,283 reviews36 followers
March 22, 2016
5 Platypires for Blackbird Fly

I first heard about Blackbird Fly from the We Need Diverse Books blog and then my book club picked it to read. Oh how much I freaking loved this book. As a child of an immigrant I was able to relate to Apple in so many way. I just felt a deep connection and I believe others would feel the same way.

Erin Entrada Kelly truly captured what its liked to be in middle school and trying to navigate the social structures within it. Oh the flashbacks. I felt I knew each character in the book in real life and could match them up with someone I once knew. Plus The Beatles music was an added bonus.

Overall the was just a great book. I would recommend this book for children and adults.
Profile Image for Jacki.
1,158 reviews50 followers
January 12, 2015
A beautiful and quick-reading story about a girl who learns to embrace her ethnic identity and focus on the inner beauty of those around her. We see this theme frequently, but Kelly handles it skillfully and focuses on a background (heroine and her mom are Filipinas) we don't see often in youth literature.
Profile Image for Brittany.
939 reviews3 followers
April 22, 2018
This was a sweet middle school book about becoming comfortable with yourself even though you are different, learning to accept others despite what the majority may say about them, and confronting the things that make you uncomfortable and sad. The 4th star is for the huge, huge Beatles influence- and because I am a George Harrison gal through and through.
I felt it, I liked Apple, and I think you will too.
Profile Image for Randy.
Author 11 books769 followers
July 26, 2015
This was the first Filipino American MG novel I've ever read, and I loved it! As someone who was born in the Philippines but grew up mostly in the US, I really connected with Apple. The story is also well-written and full of heart!
Profile Image for Alison.
Author 3 books33 followers
February 26, 2015
I ADORE this book. It's such a great, contemporary middle-grade read--that time when friends and friendships change, when boys become BOYS, when you're so self-aware and also so not aware--it's all handled so perfectly. I related to the sense of being different, the feeling of wanting to spend those years in a hole, to grow up quickly, to escape the now. This is a book full of hope. It reminded me of what it's like to be this age--the bad and the really, really good pain of growing up. Also, the last chapter was perfect.
Profile Image for Umber  Horizon .
54 reviews2 followers
January 10, 2023
I really liked this!
I might've finished it in four hours!
I totally did!
Well, it was a little sad, because Apple's bullied because she looks different, and he mom isn't the nicest, but yet again Erin paints a beautiful picture about her!!!
I really enjoyed this!
Profile Image for Shaye Miller.
1,236 reviews80 followers
March 9, 2021
My thanks to Libro.fm for providing this title to me as an educator. The print copy has been out for a while, but I’m grateful that the audiobook is now available. Twelve-year-old Apple feels so different from all her friends — trying to balance between her Filipino mom thinking she’s “too American” to her feeling not American enough when comparing her home life to her friends’ lives. When a group of boys at school make a Dog Log (list of “ugly” girls), Apple discovers she’s in the top 5. But it makes her take a look at the other girls who are near the top of the list, as well. That’s when Apple begins to realize she’s been enabling one of her friends to bully others. She might not have been saying the mean things, but by remaining silent she was supporting the behaviors. Her new friend, Evan, really stole the show in this book. He really shook things up being so confident, but also understanding.

I jotted down a few quotes I want to remember from this one:

“When you say something out loud, it makes it a big truth. Best to keep it in your mind and keep it small.”
“The music switched tempo and I heard a laugh from far away. It was a happy laugh, like someone had just told a hilarious joke. Not a mean one. I wish I was standing next to that person, whoever it was.”
“Sometimes, when you have pain, that’s what you have to do — just keep playing until it goes away.”
“I wasn’t mean like Alyssa, but I’d stood there silently. In some ways, maybe that’s worse.”
“She tried to say more, but the crowd swallowed her up and she disappeared into it. I realized that’s how she’d always be, going where the crowd goes and then getting lost.”

In this story, Apple comes full circle, eventually realizing the value in traits that others deem worthless — from the foods she eats to the friends who keep her company. I truly hope everyone finds a friend like Evan. He’s such a decent human being (and not afraid to stick up for others). He turned my “like” of this story to my “love” of this story!

Aaaaaand since so much of this story centers around Apple learning to play Blackbird — I can’t share my reaction to this book without also sharing a link to my daughter, at age 16, playing Blackbird. She has a “musician” page on Facebook, so feel free to check it out: Brayla playing Blackbird

For more children's literature, middle grade literature, and YA literature reviews, feel free to visit my personal blog at The Miller Memo!!
Profile Image for Tessa.
29 reviews
November 13, 2019
I get really emotional and at the end of the book i started to cry for a really weird reason i would tell you but i would give the book away.
Profile Image for Lisa.
455 reviews9 followers
September 23, 2015
I had such high hopes for this book, which is perhaps why my ultimate disappointment was so deep.

I loved the relationship between Apple and her mother. I thought it perfectly captured the challenge of cultural and generational differences, plus the universal truth that 12-year-olds are mortified by everything their parents do. I also thought the bullying Apple faces at school, as a girl, as Filipino, and as a Filipino girl in a very white school, was spot on. I enjoyed the narrative voice, and I found the story compelling. It was a page-turner.

Then the misgivings started to build up -- small ones at first, and then, for me, a deal-breaker.

There's the guitar Apple wants to buy: a Fender Starcaster. Even though today's model is a beginner's guitar, in no mall on this planet will she find this guitar for $20. Maybe if you add another zero to the end. She might find a used guitar for $20 on Craigslist, if she's very lucky. She's going to need an amp, too. But, I understand that sometimes authors need to take liberties in the interest of moving the plot along. So, okay.

Some of the boy-girl stuff seemed precocious to me -- are middle schoolers really expected to bring a date to a school dance, especially a Halloween dance? -- but okay. Again, I'm willing to suspend disbelief.

Then there was Apple's frenemy, who I can only describe as a two-dimensional stereotypical social climber. There was zero nuance to her cruelty to Apple. I didn't expect nuance from the mean boys, who were presented as a mob, but as an individual Alyssa deserved some dimension.

The new boy, Evan, was the only character who seemed to accept Apple's ethnicity and culture. Conveniently, his best friend at his old school was Filipino. What does that say? Couldn't he have accepted Apple because he was simply raised to be kind and open-minded? Or if his last best friend was going to be a person of color, did he have to be so conveniently Filipino? Is accepting people who are different from us a nontransferable skill?

Meanwhile, I bristled when Evan equated his outsider status as a new, geeky boy with Apple's status as the sole Filipino/Asian/possibly any person of color at her school, and a girl to boot. (Note that nobody made a Dog Log to rank the boys.) While I can certainly buy a 12-year-old boy thinking these two situations are equivalent, and while he made a good point about Apple's perspective, I don't think ignoring privilege and intersectionality does the reader any favors.

But the true deal-breaker came for me near the end, and literally, I said, "UGH," and shut the book. Had to finish it later.

It started with the character of Heleena, who's even more bullied than Apple. Turns out she . How many times have we seen that tired trope? The character everyone thinks is unattractive and meek turns out to have an extraordinary talent just waiting to be recognized. So, how frustrating when Apple herself finally gets her hands on a guitar and .

I hate, hate, hate the notion that everyone is a special snowflake. And that if you're being teased, well, don't worry, because FORTUNATELY YOU'RE A SECRET GENIUS. People don't deserve respect because they're secret geniuses. They deserve respect because it's the right thing to do.

Would Blackbird Fly have lost anything if Apple had turned out to be ? No. This choice was completely unnecessary to the plot. Every theme, every thread, could have been resolved just as effectively. And it would have been more realistic and, I would argue, more satisfying. Because the truth is, most of us are not secret geniuses. But nobody deserves to be bullied.

Profile Image for Ashley Blake.
Author 14 books4,610 followers
May 22, 2017
Erin Entrada Kelly has quickly become one of my favorite middle grade authors. I read her sophomore novel, THE LAND OF FORGOTTEN GIRLS, first, but this one, her debut, is just as wise and beautiful. Kelly absolutely writes for the forgotten girls of the world and I'm so glad characters like Apple exist. Flawed, fearful, and timid, she finds her strength, her individuality, and BLACKBIRD FLY is a book I will recommend to ever girl I know.
Profile Image for Nathaly.
89 reviews6 followers
April 23, 2023
Ganhei o livro de uma aluna que disse "ter achado a minha cara". Me senti lisonjeada, porque é a narrativa de uma garota filipina que vai morar nos EUA e passa por diversas questões relacionadas às diferenças culturais, ao fato de ser fisicamente diferente dos colegas de escola... E é fã de Beatles!
Profile Image for Charissa.
5 reviews
August 19, 2018
Read on the plane flying home from Manila—it’s a quick read, but totally worth it. The story provides incredible insight on what’s its like growing up Filipino in America.

Definitely a valuable story for younger kids to learn how to be accepting of themselves and other cultures. :)
Profile Image for Claire.
798 reviews91 followers
Want to read
February 14, 2018

I'm from the Philippines and I moved to California with my family (7 years ago). Like my mom, I did get ridiculed by my Filipino accent even if I got placed in Advanced English classes and AP Literature. Makes me think I don't deserve it but whatever... And now I'm trying to fake or sport an American accent so people would understand me. I felt out of place but I did have a few friends even if they're not Filipinos. Whenever I feel alone, I turn to music (and books sometimes). While I don't play guitar, I play piano.

Kind of relatable, tbh.

Profile Image for Joanne Kelleher.
665 reviews4 followers
September 13, 2018
In Estrada’s first book, you can see the beginning of her journey to the Newbery Award for Hello, Universe.
Apple is a conflicted 12-year-old Filipino girl who is struggling with her classmates’ racist comments, shifts in her friend group, her mother’s adherence to the Filipino ways, and her desperation to get a guitar so she can play the Beatles’ songs that her father loved so much.
This is a refreshingly straightforward plot featuring an authentic, “own voices” narrator dealing with the usual cast of middle school characters. A quick read with an engaging, believable protagonist.
Profile Image for BunTheDestroyer.
447 reviews4 followers
August 23, 2019
This book was really cute! Altho I personally am not a huge fan of the Beatles.

I really loved how they made her a prodigy. I was expecting the usual - our passions take hard work and blah blah so that the reader learns that not everything is handed to us.


I like the easy road! I love the POV that Apple is a guitar prodigy. That she lives and breathes and was born with music and so she is a NATURAL. Because, talent CAN happen naturally. It really made the book even better for me.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Hazel (and Nutsy).
226 reviews1 follower
May 28, 2021
I liked it. i think that the story was nice, and I liked the creativity. Here are my complaints:
-if I hadn't read the back of the book I would not know what and IF is until almost done with the book when she finally explains what she's been talking about
-the end is confusing.
August 4, 2015
Apple Yengko, is 12 years old, and attends Chapel Springs Middle School in Louisiana. She believes every persons has 3 “Interesting Facts” (Ifs) about them, but her facts are not so good: She has slanted eyes, a weird, frugal mother and no father, and has a Filipino name (her nickname which is a round fruit). She is used to hanging out with her “friends” Gretchen and Alyssa, but when she is the 3rd ugliest girl in the school on the “Dog List,” her friends drop like flies. Alyssa is smart and independent, but then everyone has it out for her once she gets on this list. She is the target of all kinds of attacks, especially when she befriends the new California guy (Evan) and the heaviest girl in school (Heleena). However, Apple realizes that she is better off with her new friends, who encourage her to be unique and pursue her dream of playing the guitar. I thought that this was an enjoyable book that both male and female middles school students would enjoy. It is a book about finding one’s identity, choosing the right friends and realizing what truly matters in life.
4/5 Stars
Reviewed By: Jen T.
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