A Boy Is Not a Bird

A Boy Is Not a Bird

Written by: Ravel, Edeet
ages 9 to 12 / grades 4 to 6

A young boy named Natt finds his world overturned when his family is uprooted and exiled to Siberia during the occupation of the Soviet Ukraine by Nazi Germany.

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?

Key Text Features
historical note
map
author’s note

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.3
Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.

A young boy named Natt finds his world overturned when his family is uprooted and exiled to Siberia during the occupation of the Soviet Ukraine by Nazi Germany.

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?

Key Text Features
historical note
map
author’s note

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.3
Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.

Published By Groundwood Books Ltd — Sep 1, 2019
Specifications 232 pages | 5.5 in x 7.5 in 232 pages | 5 in x 7.5 in
Supporting Resources
(select item to download)
Excerpt
Written By

EDEET RAVEL is an award-winning author of books for both young readers and adults. Her YA novel, Held, was nominated for the CLA Young Adult Book Award and the Arthur Ellis Crime Award, and her YA novel, The Saver, has been adapted for film and received awards around the world. Her 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.

Audience ages 9 to 12 / grades 4 to 6
Reading Levels Lexile 740L
Guided Reading Y
Fountas & Pinnel Text Level Y
Key Text Features historical note; map; author's note
Common Core CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.3

Commended, Sydney Taylor Book Award, 2020

Winner, Canadian Jewish Literary Awards, 2020

Short-listed, Silver Birch Fiction Award, 2021

Nominated, Red Cedar Children’s Book Award, 2020

Short-listed, Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literary, 2020

Commended, CBC Books Best Canadian YA and Middle-Grade Books, 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

A powerful reminder of the effect of war on children.

” —CM Review of Materials

“[An] excep­tion­al nov­el … [A] com­pelling sto­ry which choos­es dif­fi­cult and ambigu­ous truths over com­fort­ing simplification.” —Jewish Book Council

Praise for author Edeet Ravel and A Boy Is Not a Bird:

Winner, Canadian Jewish Literary Awards — Children/Youth, 2020

Commended, Sydney Taylor Book Award — Middle-grade Notable, 2020

Finalist, Silver Birch Fiction Award, 2021

Nominee, Red Cedar Children’s Book Award — Fiction, 2020

Short-listed, Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literary, 2020

CBC Books Best Canadian YA and Middle-Grade Books of 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

“A powerful reminder of the effect of war on children.” — CM Review of Materials

“[An] excep­tion­al nov­el … [A] com­pelling sto­ry which choos­es dif­fi­cult and ambigu­ous truths over com­fort­ing simplification.” — Jewish Book Council

Reviews for previous works: 

“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)

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