Blue Birds / by Caroline Starr Rose. 8.24.2016

G. P. Putnam’s Sons ISBN 9780399168109

MS Grades 4-7 Rating: 4

In July of 1587, 12-year-old Alis arrives on the island of Roanoke with her family, instantly falling in love with the untouched beauty of this new land. The only thing missing is a friend. Being the lone girl her age in the English settlement, Alis is often called upon to watch the younger children and finds her solace by slipping off to explore the surrounding forest. There in the mysterious woods of Roanoke she meets Kimi, a girl from the local tribe who is full of hatred towards the English, those she views responsible for the death of her father and beloved sister. These two girls, from two very different worlds, form an unlikely friendship, overcoming language barriers as well as the superstition and mutual hatred existing between the English and Roanoke people. However, as their friendship grows, the unrest and distrust between their peoples continue to mount. When violence and cries of war break out, Alis is forced to make a choice that will alter her life forever.

In Blue Birds, Caroline Starr Rose weaves a fictional tale with her own unique spin of what might have happened to the people of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, rekindling a historical mystery that has fascinated people for centuries. The author acknowledges the liberties she takes with the historical facts in the Author’s Note, which helps separate fact from fiction while also explaining how she came to develop the main character and plot. The story is told in stirring free verse from the alternating voices of the two main characters, Alis and Kimi. When the girls are together, their thoughts and words appear side by side, cleverly and artistically allowing the reader to experience both worlds at the same time and showing universal similarities that transcend cultural barriers and differences.

This novel is a beautiful story of friendship, sisterly love, and human emotions. The resolution stretches beyond the likeliness of a real-life outcome, yet it reasonably develops from the plot. The underlying message is a powerful one of love, self-sacrifice, and trust triumphing over fear and hate.

Justina McBride, CLJ