Summary: Katherine Paterson was one of my favorite authors when I was a kid, and I was excited to see a new book by her on this year’s Sunshine State list. The Day of the Pelican is a fictional account of one ethnic Albanian family’s experience during the ethnic cleansing that took place in Kosovo in the late 1990’s.
Meli enjoys her life in Kosovo. Her family lives in a nice apartment above her father’s store. Her brothers like playing soldier, especially her older brother, Mehmet, who admires the men fighting in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). But war seems far away for Meli until the day Mehmet disappears; the day Meli draws her teacher with a pelican nose. She is convinced that all the trouble that follows is her fault, punishment for the drawing. A few weeks later, Mehmet returns; he had been kept prisoner, then was beaten and left for dead. KLA soldiers had found him and nursed him back to health, allowing him to return to his worried family.
The family quickly decides that the time has come to abandon their home in the face of increased persecution from the Serbian government. Meli tells their tale as they stay in makeshift refugee camps and experience the brutal reality of hatred.
The family eventually makes their way to America for a new start. But will these Muslim refugees be welcomed in their new home?
The Day of the Pelican will introduce young readers to a recent event in world history that few will be familiar with. Meli is a narrator the reader can sympathize with.
11 and up
Areas of concern (content):
Foul Language: mild
Nudity/Adult Content: none