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Review: The Milk of Birds by Sylvia Whitman

Title: The Milk of Birds
Author: Sylvia Whitman
Year Published: 2013

Genre: YA Fiction
Pages: 363
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2013 Google Reading map): USA (Virginia) and Sudan (Darfur)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Fourteen-year-old Nawra lives in Darfur, Sudan, in a camp for refugees displaced by the Janjaweed's trail fo murder and destruction. A nonprofit organization called Save the Girls pairs her with an American donor, and since Nawra never learned to read or write, she must dictate her thank you letters to a friend. Putting her experiences into words begins to free her from her devastating past and to brighten the path to her future.

Nawra's sponsor, KC is an American teenager from Richamond, Virginia, who hates reading and writing--or anything that smacks of school. But as Nawra pours grief and joy into her letters, she inspired KC to see beyond her own struggles. And as KC opens her heart in her responses to Nawra, she becomes both a dedicated friend and a passionate activist for Darfur.

Review: I seem to be attracted to books set in war torn areas (Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, etc) and this book didn't disappoint. This book is a great vehicle for students to learn about what is going on in Darfur and the refugee camps in Sudan and Chad.

I like the format of this book; letters between KC and Nawra. Through KC's letters we read of her struggles in school with academics, her issues with her divorced parents, and her reluctance to participate in the penpal experience. Over time KC gets pulled in to Nawra's story and difficult life; she begins to write lots of letters and to really care about Nawra's plight and those of other refugees in Sudan. Nawra's letters are heart wrenching, to say the least. No details are spared in the telling of rape, murder, hunger, and displacement. The thought of Nawra reading KC's letters and not being able to relate at all is interesting.

The letters and thoughts of the girls point out the strength of relationships, nonprofit groups, and the power of educating girls. But it is not all sad and negative. Both KC and Nawra experience joy and friendship, family and successes. I cared about both girls and their situations, and keep thinking about them.

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