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Blackbird Fly
Greenwillow Books (2015)
Blackbird Fly

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Publishers Weekly called Blackbird Fly “a true triumph,” and the Los Angeles Times Book Review said, “Apple soars like the eponymous blackbird of her favorite Beatles song.”

Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to Louisiana from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her… or it might be her two new friends, who show her how special she really is.

Erin Entrada Kelly deftly brings Apple’s conflicted emotions to the page in her debut novel about family, friendship, popularity, and going your own way. “A must-read for those kids cringing at their own identities.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

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From School Library Journal:

Gr 5–8—Eighth grader Apple and her mother moved from the Philippines to Louisiana several years ago after the death of her father. All Apple has left of her dad is a Beatles cassette with his name written on it. At school, her two best friends are trying to become part of the in-group and have become very critical of her, especially after it’s discovered that she is on the unwritten Dog-Log and considered one of the ugliest girls in school. Apple is embarrassed by her mother, who doesn’t speak English well. The protagonist is desperate to get a guitar so she can learn to play the Beatles songs that her dad loved, but her mother is adamant that she not waste her time on music. Soon, Apple makes friends with a new boy, Evan, who’s not impressed with her former friends or their boyfriends. When the music teacher loans her a guitar, she discovers that she is something of a prodigy. The story will resonate with any student in middle school who has felt different and ostracized. The author has skillfully captured the various characters that populate Apple’s middle school. Only Apple’s mother remains two-dimensional until almost the end. The story is rather predictable until it ends with a twist. Apple mentions her favorite song “Blackbird” many times; readers unfamiliar with the song would benefit from listening to a recording or finding a YouTube clip. —Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC

From the Inside Flap

Twelve-year-old Apple Yengko believes that there are at least three interesting facts about every person on Earth. Unfortunately, her three IFs make her an outcast in Chapel Spring Middle School in Chapel Spring, Louisiana:

  • She has slanted eyes
  • She has a weird Filipino nickname
  • . . . and a weird mother

When Apple is voted the third-ugliest girl in school, her life quickly falls apart. The boys bark at her in the halls and a rumor spreads that she eats dogs for dinner. Music is her only escape. All she needs is enough money to buy a guitar, and then she’ll be able to change herself and her life forever. So what if her mother doesn’t understand and thinks she’s becoming too American? So what if her supposed best friends turn the other way . . .

It might be the Beatles and their music who save Apple, or Mr. Z (Chapel Spring Middle’s awesome music teacher)–or it could be two unexpected friends who show her that standing out in a crowd is better than getting lost in it.​

-Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Kelly skillfully weaves together the story of misfit Apple, her love of music, and a budding romance with a new boy at school, while never losing focus on the central issue of what it is like to be the other.” -Booklist

“A delightful debut. What sets Kelly s book apart is the combination of a quirky narrator and details about living in a first-generation Filipino American household. Through her love of music, Apple starts to soar like the eponymous blackbird of her favorite Beatles song.”
-Los Angeles Times Book Review

“A smart, sensitive, and resilient heroine who is authentic and relatable in her strengths and imperfections. This poignant novel would make for a particularly fine read aloud; expect visceral reactions. This is a must-read for those kids cringing at their own identities.”
-Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Each character in Kelly s debut novel is portrayed with remarkable authenticity. The awkwardness and intense feelings inherent to middle school are palpable. Children’s literature has been waiting for Apple Yengkoa strong, Asian-American girl whose ethnic identity simultaneously complicates and enriches her life.” -Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Will resonate with any student in middle school who has felt different and ostracized. The author has skillfully captured the various characters that populate Apple’s… school.” -School Library Journal (starred review)

“Writing with acute sensitivity and sometimes painful realism, debut novelist Kelly skillfully captures the betrayals, tentative first crushes, and fluctuating emotions of middle school… a true triumph.” -Publishers Weekly (starred review)


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