For fans of Jennifer Holm (Penny from Heaven, Turtle in Paradise), a heartfelt and unforgettable middle-grade novel about an irresistible girl and her family, tragic change, and the healing power of love and friendship. In 1972 home is a cozy nest on Cape Cod for eleven-year-old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein, her older sister, Rachel; her psychiatrist father; and her dancer mother. But then Chirp’s mom develops symptoms of a serious disease, and everything changes. Chirp finds comfort in watching her beloved wild birds. She also finds a true friend in Joey, the mysterious boy who lives across the street. Together they create their own private world and come up with the perfect plan: Escape. Adventure. Discovery. Nest is Esther Ehrlich’s stunning debut novel. Her lyrical writing is honest, humorous, and deeply affecting. Chirp and Joey will steal your heart. Long after you finish Nest, the spirit of Chirp and her loving family will stay with you.
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Publication: September 2014
Genre: Children’s, Middle Grade, Coming-of-age
I received this title for free in exchange for an honest review
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Nest by Esther Ehrlich
I was sent an invitation to read Nest a few weeks ago and continually put it off. This isn’t normally the type of book I read or review, but since the author/publishers believed I would, I decided to give it a quick glance. Wow, am I so grateful I did finally pick it up. It was so amazing that I read the bulk of it in a single day split between two sittings. This book, though the cover and synopsis is uplifting, is reminiscent of Patrick Ness’ “A Monster Calls“. It’s a story that resonates with both the younger readers it is intended for, but also young adults and adults who are able to understand the coded language adults use when around children. As a thirty-year-old woman, I am not ashamed to say that I did tear up and cry at a few parts of the book. This really has the potential to become a five star book for many readers out there.
Readers are introduced to the suburban world of Cape Cod in the early seventies through the eyes of our eleven-year-old protagonist, Chirp. We see everything through her eyes, which is why this is a book that affects both younger and older readers so tremendously. Younger readers can identify with Chirp feeling lost and confused and swept-away, while older readers have a better understanding of the situations surrounding her and the reasons for the other characters’ behaviour, empathizing with most, if not all of the characters. Chirp who has lived a fairly sheltered and happy life for eleven years, is suddenly forced to deal with a situation most adults cannot even handle — an ill mother with a degenerative disease.
It is heartbreaking to see Chirp and her sister Rachel continually work to help their mother and make sense of their new roles as caretaker. Then, we meet Joey, Chirp’s neighbour dealing with his own family turmoil. He becomes Chirp’s tether to a world outside sickness and sadness, while she gives him a reason to soften and do more than merely survive. The way the two interact is so sweet, yet so realistic that though you hope there is a happy future for the two of them, together, you know that reality will likely split them apart each other as simple childhood memories and nothing more.
Rating this book was really hard. As I said, it really could be a five star book, and for many readers it will be. But, personally, I can only give it a solid, high 4 stars. Yes, it made me cry. Yes, it written beautifully, with well rounded characters and relateable situations. Yet, for all its merits, the book does not seem to make any real solid commentaries on life other than you must learn to adapt and roll with the punches. Things happen and there’s nothing you can do but deal with it. While that is a good and true lesson to learn, I personally would have preferred something different, perhaps about death and life. That is why, though this can be a five star book, it falls just short for me.
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