STARRED REVIEW
September 2017

Growing up and letting go

By Alison McGhee, illustrated by Ana Juan
Review by

Set in the idyllic seaside tourist town of Isla, a place famed for its talking birds, Pablo and Birdy is a mystical, fable-like novel that gently examines big questions of identity, family, refugees and freedom.

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Set in the idyllic seaside tourist town of Isla, a place famed for its talking birds, Pablo and Birdy is a mystical, fable-like novel that gently examines big questions of identity, family, refugees and freedom.

As a baby, Pablo was set adrift at sea in a child’s inflatable swimming pool with a parrot named Birdy. After Pablo washed ashore, a souvenir shop owner named Emmanuel took him in, helped by other shopkeepers who had emigrated from places like Cuba, Haiti and Ireland.

Now, on the eve of his 10th birthday, it’s no wonder that Pablo is haunted by questions about his past. Just as Pablo is coming to terms with his mysterious origins, he faces a turning point with his beloved Birdy, long presumed to be flightless and voiceless. Helped by a comic “Committee” of talking birds, Pablo begins to realize that his guardian parrot may be an elusive Seafarer, who according to legend can hear and reproduce every sound ever made.

Pablo hopes that Birdy’s special powers may help reveal his origin story. At the same time, however, he worries that he will be forced to set Birdy free, to return to the ocean on the rare “Winds of Change” that are quickly approaching Isla. As news reporters race to capture a legendary Seafarer, possibly endangering Birdy’s life, Pablo is faced with a gut-wrenching decision.

Pablo and Birdy provides an engaging introduction to an all-important issue: As Emmanuel explains, there are many “in this world who had to leave their homes, for various reasons, and their journeys are long and hard.”

 

This article was originally published in the September 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Pablo and Birdy

Pablo and Birdy

By Alison McGhee, illustrated by Ana Juan
Caitlyn Dlouhy
ISBN 9781481470261

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