The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson.
Clarion Books: NY, 2009.

This book has such a cool title, I had to pick it up. It certainly doesn't sound like it should be anywhere near as sad as the subject is.

I wish that this book (or another like it) had been written sooner. The reason is that I had so little awareness of the regional war of which it deals. In the 1990s, I heard the region name (Kosovo) and Milosevic (the Serbian leader) and that the Serbs were slaughtering the citizens of Albanian descent. I didn't know that the Albanians were Muslim and the Serbs Christian, just that they had ethnic differences. Would more awareness have made a difference in our people's behavior after 9-11? I have to think knowing that Christians have massacred people recently would have caused a little more restraint regarding Muslims.

The story follows a family from the beginning of the killings, through the loss of their property and beating of their son, their time in a camp of resisters, times of family clinging together, a refugee camp when the Albanians were being expelled from the country, their decision to move to America and leave extended family behind, the actual move to the United States with the help of sponsors, and their adjustment period in Vermont. Another important factor is that within about a year's time of fleeing from their besieged homeland, they come face to face with war in their new home. As Muslims and strangers, they are confronted as if they were the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center (or just like them). The children's instinct is to flee, but their father demands they face their attackers. Confrontation initiates a process of discussion and a chance to learn who the family really is.

I believe the strengths of the book are the daily description of the family experiences, a witness to the refugee experience, and the father's insistence that violence and revenge are not the answer. The eldest son recognizes that most people think differently than his father, and especially after he is beaten, he cannot agree with his father, though he obeys as is his duty. They butt heads through most of the book, but the father is determined to keep the family together and his son out of a soldiers' camp. The son does eventually start to see that hate and revenge do not make sense. They just breed more hate and often in misplaced ways. In seeing this, he can start to heal and communicate with others again.

related-refugees, refugee camps, international aid, Muslims, Albanians, war in Kosovo 1998-1999, 20th century history
RL=6th & up

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