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Bird in a Box

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  991 ratings  ·  171 reviews
Otis, Willie, and Hibernia are three children with a lot in common: they've all lost a loved one, they each have secret dreams, and they won't stop fighting for what they want. And they're also a lot like their hero, famed boxer Joe Louis. Throughout this moving novel, their lives gradually converge to form friendship, family, and love. Their trials and triumphs echo those ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 12th 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  991 ratings  ·  171 reviews

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Margo Tanenbaum
Set in 1936, at the height of the Great Depression, Bird in the Box is described by the author as "mostly a book about the power of the human spirit, and of how one man's triumph brought glory to so many people." This moving novel weaves together the story of three different children in Elmira, New York: the sassy Hibernia, the daughter of a reverend, whose mama ran away to New York City right after she was born with dreams of being a jazz singer; Willie, who lives with his abusive, drunk father ...more
May 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
While Hibernia is annoying, she has a distinctive voice, in contrast to Otis and Willie, whom I kept mixing up. The voices of Otis and Willie blended together. I knew that one of them had scarred hands and that the other was an actual orphan but I could rarely remember who was who. Furthermore there was no character development, no growth in maturity and Otis was a saint. As it was Otis and Willie had to grow up fast, but then their growth stagnated. I'm not even sure why Hibernia was in the sto ...more
Apr 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
The story takes place in 1936,during the middle of the great depression. The three main characters, are 12yr old Otis, Willie and Hibernia. At the beginning the three have yet to meet. All of them are fans of Joe Louis. The author enterwines some of the fights throughout the story. With so much going wrong the great fighter gives the three someone to hope and believe in.

Hibernia lives with her father a reverend. Her mother left to follow her dream to sing at the Savoy. Willie is forced to leave
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book, as every chapter showed different perspectives on the same situation (Hibernia, Otis & Will). The book started off slightly confusing, however, once I found connections between all three characters, it was easier to understand. This book definitely emphasises a lot on racism and no freedom to do what you wish (Bird In a Box). I recommend this book to anyone that likes to read stories about racist issues and the right to receive freedom. I also recommend this b ...more
Feb 26, 2011 rated it liked it
The historical setting is nicely done and the plot is sweet and entertaining, although everything wraps up a bit too neatly and positively to be believable.
Characterization is sometimes erratic: Willie and Otis’s voices are too similar at times, and Hibernia’s father’s personality completely changes with very little reason. Hibernia is supposed to be “sassy” I think, but she came off as unexplainably narcissistic to me.
Aug 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Hibernia, Otis, and Willie take turns narrating this short novel set in 1937. The three young characters refuse to be defeated by difficult circumstances and as things move along their stories being to intertwine. In the background is the blossoming of jazz on the radio and the rise to fame of boxing star Joe Louis.

Denise Smith
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
It started slow but gained momentum once I realized there was a connection between the main characters.
As different as we seem there are things that bind us.
The history facts at the end were very interesting and I'm not a big boxing fan.
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mg, african-american
I really do think MG books can and should develop characters.
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
The book Bird in a Box covers the overall theme of boxing and the famed boxer Joe Lewis in Depression era New York City. The beginning of the book prepares the reader for the journey they will go on in the rest of the story, introducing them to three main characters, Hibernia, Otis, and Willie. Bird in a Box is a story about how people can overcome their difficulties and find purpose in their lives. It covers feelings of abandonment as well as pain and loss. The story is told in the point of vie ...more
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is shelved in the juvenile section of our library, but is one that adults will also appreciate. Set during the Great Depression and featuring three children who become connected partly through love of radio and boxing/ Joe Louis. Hibernia listens to Harlem's Savoy Ballroom music on the radio and aspires to sing there. Otis listens constantly to the radio which reminds him of his parents and Willie, recovering from tragedy, loves boxing. You won't forget this book. ...more
Apr 27, 2019 rated it liked it
I had some annoyance with the narration, especially with the overuse of weird similes, but it really captured the excitement of everyone caring about a fight and a fighter and listening over the radio.
Nadia L. Hohn
Oct 12, 2019 rated it liked it
A middle grade novel set in the Great Depression following three African-American characters who are interested in singing and boxing. The book identified some major historical figures like Joe Louis, Duke Ellington, and Madame CJ Walker. It takes place in Elmira, New York.
Eileen Winfrey
A good read-alike for kids who liked The War That Saved My Life. Three children during the Depression escape their heartfelt troubles by listening on the radio, especially to broadcasts of Joe Louis fights. Friendship and hardship and love.
Erin Powers
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 327-book-log
This book tells the story of three unlikely friends that meet during the Great Depression. The three children are able to meet and become friends because of the boxer, Joe Louis, which binds them together by their race and culture.
Jul 14, 2017 marked it as to-read
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
LOVED this so much!
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very good historical fiction targeted for middle schoolers / junior high kids.
Aug 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Enlightening perspective on Joe Louis and his impact throughout America through a fictional story told from the view of three children.
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fantastic book! Loved how the book switched back and forth between characters and their lives.
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great pick for middle grade historical, realistic fiction. Likeable central characters and compelling events will draw readers in. Beautifully written and meticulously researched, too.
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a sweet historical fiction about three kids who love Joe Louis. Would be good for anyone who wants historical fiction and maybe is interested in boxing.
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Listened to unabridged audio version with the Lovies. Great historical fiction: relatable characters, play-by-play of the boxing matches; language descriptive, factual and lacking judgment.
Mallory Hargett
Book relating to the great depression. Would be a great read for middle/high school.
1936 depression era
Apr 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
from what i remember, i absolutely LOVED this book! i read this during class.
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some books really shine not just because of great characters, setting, and execution, but because the author's passion is palpable on each page. This is one of those books. ...more
Mar 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Lexile: 670L
AR Level: 6.0 pts
Traits: ideas, word choice
Barb Middleton
Feb 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
African Americans Hibernia, Willie, and Otis each tell their stories of life during the Great Depression when Joe Louis was fighting to win the heavyweight title. Hibernia is a typical teenager wanting to be independent. She wonders about her mom, who left them when Hibernia was born, in order to pursue her dream to become a famous singer. Hibernia’s dad is the Reverend who doesn’t like it that Hibernia can sing like her mother. He’s been mad about her mom leaving and wants to squash Hibernia’s ...more
Zoë Danielle
Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney takes place in a small upstate New York town during the Great Depression and tells the story of three children- Hibernia, Willie and Otis- and how their lives comes together. Hibernia is the daughter of a Reverend and her mother left to have a singing career in New York City and now Hibernia dreams of someday doing the same. Willie and Otis both live in a home for orphans, but only one of them has lost their parents. Willie left home because of his abusive f ...more
Feb 12, 2020 rated it liked it
First, it should be noted that the author Pinkney created a compelling story with three equally important children whom I wanted to aid, protect, heal, and encourage, and she did this while still keeping the characters' own "inner fires" alight. I did like the structure and story of the book, especially the under-explored experiences of Depression-era African American children and young adults. I can't quite put my finger on what was missing for me, though I did have the same odd reaction to Kar ...more
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Andrea Davis Pinkney is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 books for children, including the Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book Duke Ellington, illustrated by Brian Pinkney; Let it Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and winner of the Carter G. Woodson Award; and Alvin Ailey, a Parenting Publication Gold medal winne ...more

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