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THE MILK OF BIRDS by Sylvia Whitman Kirkus Star


by Sylvia Whitman

Age Range: 14 - 18

Pub Date: April 16th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4424-4682-3
Publisher: Atheneum

In this debut, an American teen from Richmond, Va., and a Sudanese teen in Darfur exchange letters during 2008, transforming their very different lives.

Fourteen-year-old Nawra has been raped, her family murdered and her village burned in Darfur’s genocidal war. She’s pregnant and living in an unsanitary refugee camp. Nonprofit Save the Girls matches Nawra with American pen pal K.C. Cannelli, an unconventional 14-year-old with an undiagnosed learning disability. Poised to fail eighth grade, K.C. feels like a “loser.” For a year, Nawra and K.C. exchange letters every month. Illiterate Nawra dictates her letters to a friend, while verbally challenged K.C. speaks hers into a computer. Through these letters, Nawra’s able to tell her horrific story to someone who cares. As K.C. discovers everything Nawra has endured, she becomes an advocate and fundraiser for Darfur’s refugees. Progressing chronologically, the story alternates between Nawra’s and K.C.’s first-person accounts and letters. Punctuated with Sudanese proverbs, Nawra’s letters reflect her temperate, resilient, positive personality, while K.C.’s brash, humorous style appropriately relies on American idioms.

A timely, authentic, inspiring story of two unlikely pen pals whose global, snail-mail communication makes all the difference. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)