Her birth certificate says Roberta Briggs, but the 12-year-old who keeps a daily birding chart and leaves out strands of hair plucked from her brush for birds to make nests with is (fittingly) better known as Birdie. The last three years have been filled with changes since her firefighter father died in the line of duty and she and her mother moved from Philadelphia to live with her great-grandma Maymee. In Eileen Spinelli’s novel-in-verse, Birdie, this spunky tween has even more big changes ahead in her small town of Hadley Falls.
In Hadley Falls, life has a steady rhythm. Birdie hangs out with her best friend, Nina, and plays Scrabble with a boy named Martin on Saturdays. Birdie’s mother works days at a diner and spends evenings at home. Her quirky grandma Maymee plans the details of her own funeral. And through it all, Birdie keeps on smiling on the outside, even if her insides don’t quite match—and she still talks to her father’s photo at night.
Birdie has started to wonder if Martin could be her first boyfriend, but with the arrival of summer, suddenly Nina and Martin are a couple, her mother is dating police officer Fred, and even Maymee puts down her coffin catalogs and picks up curlers when a new gentleman arrives at church. Realistic verse expresses the disappointment, anger and fear Birdie experiences as she worries about losing her friends, her mother’s love and her father’s traditions. Yet with time, patience and community, the resilient girl learns that friends and family help the heart grow and that moving forward in life doesn’t mean forgetting the past.