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Homeless Bird


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About the Author

Gloria Whelan is the bestselling author of many novels for young readers, including Homeless Bird, winner of the National Book Award; Fruitlands: Louisa May Alcott Made Perfect; Angel on the Square; Burying the Sun; Once on This Island, winner of the Great Lakes Book Award; and Return to the Island. She lives in the woods of northern Michigan.


Gr 4-8-Through Koly, a 13-year-old girl, Indian culture and customs are illuminated in this novel by Gloria Whalin (HarperCollins, 2000). Her marriage rips her from a secure and loving family and places her in the midst of strangers. She meets her husband Hari, a chronically ill young boy, her spiteful mother-in-law, her depressed father-in-law and sweet-natured sister-in-law, Chandra, for the first time on her wedding day. With the subsequent deaths of her husband and father-in-law, and Chandra's marriage, Koly is abandoned by her "sass" in Vrindavan, while on their way to Delhi. Here, as a widow, she discovers her own strengths and courage, eventually weaving a new life for herself. The poetic writing paints the scenes vividly as Koly moves from one precarious situation to the next. Listeners can feel the heat of the dry, dusty courtyard in her new home, and see the brilliant and blinding yellow-orange of the marigolds as she weaves wedding adornments in Vrindavan. Whelan shows Indian life through highly descriptive settings and dialogue. Choudhury, known for major film and television roles, gives a spirited reading of this lyrical work. Her sensitivity brings these characters alive. Moving at a steady pace, the cadence of the voices keep a rhythm that sustains the suspence. Unlike the book with the text of the "Author's Notes," the oral inclusion is not nearly as helpful to listeners; a printed insert would have been helpful for readers in order to see the spellings and definitions of these Hindi words. The audio rendition can only increase the book's popularity and circulation among listeners, whether for enjoyment or as part of a multicultural curriculum.-Tina Hudak, St. Bernard's School, Riverdale, MD Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Whelan (Miranda's Last Stand) blends modern Hindu culture with age-old Indian traditions as she profiles a poor girl's struggle to survive in a male-dominated society. Only 13 when her parents find her a husband, Koly can't help feeling apprehensive about leaving home to live in a distant village with her in-laws and husband, none of whom she has met. The truth is worse than she could have feared: the groom, Hari, is a sickly child, and his parents have wanted only a dowry, not a wife for him, in order to pay for a trip to Benares so Hari might bathe in the holy waters of the Ganges. Koly is widowed almost immediately; later, she is abandoned in the holy city of Vrindavan by her cruel mother-in-law. Koly, likened to a "homeless bird" in a famous poem by Rabindranath Tagore, embodies the tragic plight of Hindu women without status, family or financial security. She is saved from a dismal fate by her love of beauty, her talent for embroidery and the philanthropy of others--and by Whelan's tidy plotting, which introduces a virtuous young man, a savvy benefactress and a just employer in the nick of time. The feminist theme that dominates the happily-ever-after ending seems more American than Indian, but kids will likely enjoy this dramatic view of an endangered adolescence and cheer Koly's hard-won victories. Ages 8-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, 2000

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