Groundwood Books

A Boy Is Not a Bird

Written by Edeet Ravel

For kids 9 - 12 years old | Published 2019-09- | ISBN 9781773061740
JUVENILE FICTION / Historical / Holocaust

Cover of A Boy Is Not a Bird

Regular price $16.95 CAD

232 pages | 7.5 in × 5.5 in
Print Format

Also Available as an Ebook

About this book

A Boy Is Not a Bird

Edeet Ravel

In 1941, life in Natt’s small town of Zastavna is comfortable and familiar, even if the grownups are acting strange, and his parents treat him like a baby. Natt knows there’s a war on, of course, but he’s glad their family didn’t emigrate to Canada when they had a chance. His mother didn’t want to leave their home, and neither did he. He especially wouldn’t want to leave his best friend, Max. Max is the ideas guy, and he hears what’s going on in the world from his older sisters. Together the boys are two brave musketeers.

Then one day Natt goes home and finds his family huddled around the radio. The Russians are taking over. The churches and synagogues will close, Hebrew school will be held in secret, and there are tanks and soldiers in the street. But it’s exciting, too. Natt wants to become a Young Pioneer, to show outstanding revolutionary spirit and make their new leader, Comrade Stalin, proud.

But life under the Russians is hard. The soldiers are poor. They eat up all the food and they even take over Natt’s house. Then Natt’s father is arrested, and even Natt is detained and questioned. He feels like a nomad, sleeping at other people’s houses while his mother works to free his father. As the adults try to protect him from the reality of their situation, and local authorities begin to round up deportees bound for Siberia, Natt is filled with a sense of guilt and grief.

Why wasn’t he brave enough to look up at the prison window when his mother took him to see his father for what might be the last time? Or can just getting through war be a heroic act in itself?


“When countries are fighting,” my mother says, “there can be a lot of confusion. You can’t predict from one day to the next what will happen. Imagine a flock of birds sitting together quietly on a haystack, enjoying the fine weather. A dog runs up to them and begins to bark, and with a big squawk and a tangle of wings they all disperse, up, up in the sky, in different directions. The war is the barking dog. But the birds will eventually come together again, and everything will resume as before.”

My father nods. “Yes, exactly. And war is when you get a chance to be a hero. Because every day that you get through it, you’ve done something heroic.”

About the Author

Edeet Ravel

Edeet Ravel’s young-adult novel Held was nominated for the CLA Young Adult Book Award and the Arthur Ellis Crime Award. Her YA novel The Saver has been adapted for film and received awards around the globe. Her acclaimed novels for adults have won the Hugh MacLennan Prize and the Jewish Book Award and have been nominated for the Governor General’s Award and the Giller Prize.Edeet was born on an Israeli kibbutz and holds a PhD in Jewish Studies from McGill University. She taught for twenty years at McGill, Concordia University and John Abbott College.

Awards and Praise

Praise for A Boy Is Not a Bird:

Middle-grade Notable Sydney Taylor Book Award, 2020

“Basing her story on the experience of a beloved teacher, Ravel has Natt tell his own story in an ingenuous present tense that never loses its youthful quality even as it gains wisdom. . . . An accessible gateway to mid-20th-century Eastern European history.” — Kirkus Reviews

Praise for other works by Edeet Ravel:

“Ravel captures the voice and inner life of a small child ...” — Montreal Gazette review of The Last Rain (Penguin, 2011)

“A compelling story of determination and the will to survive.” — School Library Journal review of The Saver (Groundwood, 2008)

“Edeet Ravel once again proves herself an adept manipulator of difficult material ... This is rich, thought-provoking stuff.” — Quill and Quire review of Held (Annick, 2011)