Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan

Homeless Birds book cover image

Whelan, Gloria. Homeless Bird. 212p. Harper Collins. 2000. ISBN:  978-0-06-440819-6.

Homeless Bird, a National Book Award winner,  is a beautifully written story about a 13-year-old Hindu girl, Koly, living in India.  As is the custom, her marriage is arranged for her.  Unbeknownst to Koly and her family, the young man, Hari, himself only 13-years-old, is very sick, and the only reason his parents want him to get married is so that they can get a dowry (money) from Koly’s family to be able to pay for him to make the journey to the suppposed healing waters of the Ganges River.

Koly’s sass (Mother-in-law) treats Koly very poorly.  Between Hari being very sick and his mother being so cruel to Koly, she becomes very lonely. She finds hope in embroidery, Hari’s sister, and Hari’s father, who reads with her.

Events take a turn for the worse.  Koly’s sass tells her she is taking her to live in Delhi, but instead Koly is suddenly alone in a city with thousands of widows.  Is this how the rest of her life is going to be?

Beautifully written, Koly’s story is unimaginable, yet hopeful. I couldn’t imagine how lonely she was.  Yet she perservered. Highly recommended.

Genre: Historical fiction

coming-of-age, family, India, culture,

Series:  This book is not part of a series.

Awards:  National Book Award winner, ALA Notable Children’s Book

A/R Reading level: 4.1

Interest level:  Grades 5-8

Link to Harvest Park Library catalog:  Homeless Bird

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