Reviews for Day of the Pelican

Booklist Reviews 2009 September #2
Told from the viewpoint of a young Albanian Muslim girl, this stirring docu-novel dramatizes the recent ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and the search for home, as well as prejudice right here in America. Meli Lleshi is nearly 12 in 1998 when her non-religious Muslim family must flee their town to escape a Serb massacre. Over the next two years, they travel first to her uncle's farm, then embark on a terrible journey through the mountains to a crowded refugee camp: "hungry, filthy, exhausted--and homeless." They are denied permission to cross the border, until finally, sponsored by a church, they find refuge in Vermont. Never simplistic, the political conflict is the story. Why do the Serbs hate the Albanians? And why does Meli's brother want to join the Kosovo "terrorists"? After 9/11, the term terrorist has new urgency in America; to the bigots, all Muslims are terrorists. Paterson includes a long historical note, but readers would have benefited from a map. Pair this with stories of refugees from Sudan and Liberia in search of a new home. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #6
When eleven-year-old Meli, a member of the minority Albanian population living in Serbian-controlled Kosovo in 1998, draws a satiric picture of her teacher, she is kept late at school; her thirteen-year-old brother Mehmet runs home without her -- and disappears. Mehmet eventually returns after being beaten by Serbian police and left for dead, and this marks the beginning of the complete disruption of Meli's life. Paterson writes carefully and dispassionately about the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Albanians and of the eventual emigration of some of them to America. Using the experiences of a family from her own church in Vermont, Paterson conveys a similar struggle to survive and then the struggle to fit in, especially after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Because Meli is such a responsible, reined-in young woman, the tone of the book remains almost too calm throughout, and Paterson mostly just hints at the brutality of the Serbs' treatment of the Albanians, particularly that of women. The theme of what people do with the hatred they feel toward those who have mistreated them is a strength of this historically accurate novel and will provide opportunity for discussion. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 September #2
A realistically harsh yet hopeful account of an Albanian Kosovar family's flight from the violence ravaging their beloved home. When, for no apparent reason, Meli's brother Mehmet is nabbed, held in a Serbian prison and beaten before making it back home, Baba decides they must flee. They first go to Uncle Fadil's farm, but the violence eventually follows them there; Serbian soldiers take all of their possessions, then torch the house. The family hikes to a refugee camp on the Macedonian border, where they live until immigrating to America. Although the adults struggle to learn English and face difficulty finding suitable work, the family settles in fairly well. The children, too, ultimately face challenges, including mistreatment by their classmates following 9/11. Although Meli and Mehmet are interesting, dynamic characters, Paterson is so intent on covering, however briefly, all the issues that a family like Meli's would face that she fails to work her typical spellbinding magic. Nonetheless, a solid addition to the scant offerings on this subject. (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 September #1

In this powerful, finely crafted novel, Paterson unveils the experience of Muslim Albanians in the Kosovo war through her memorable heroine, Meli, who turns 11 just as her family flees genocide. Through Meli's gaze, Paterson skillfully defines the culture of Kosovo, including the strictly defined gender roles, large extended families and social hierarchy that pits Serb against Albanian and looks down on families, like Meli's, from the countryside. News of the murder of 70 members of an Albanian family and the brief disappearance of Meli's 13-year-old brother, Mehmet, drive her family into exile: first in a mountain camp, then as refugees in Macedonia ("They might die, but they would at least die together," thinks Meli as her family is crammed into a crowded train) and finally to the United States. Lest readers feel distanced from the prejudice at the heart of this story, after 9/11, Meli and Mehmet endure taunting based on their heritage. Spanning vast distances and several years, Paterson offers a realistic and provocative account of these refugees' plight, balanced by the hope of new beginnings and the resilience of the human spirit. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 October

Gr 5-8--On the day 11-year-old Meli draws a picture of a pelican that bears a striking resemblance to her teacher--and gets caught--spring is just around the corner in Kosovo. But along with the change in season in 1998 come life-altering changes for Albanian Kosovars, the ethnic group to which Meli's family belongs. Because she is forced to stay after class, her 13-year-old brother, Mehmet, heads home alone and is taken by the Serbian police, beaten, and dumped in a field to die. When he returns home after being nursed to health by the Kosovo Liberation Army, his family must flee. Surviving extreme hardship and violence, they arrive in a refugee camp, and at long last immigrate to the United States. All is well until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when their family is mistreated for being Muslim, albeit nonpracticing. Kindness and forgiveness on both sides bring about healing and the realization that the Lleshis have truly found a home. The themes of family loyalty and living peaceably with others along with the exploration of ethnic prejudice are handled so as to make for meaningful discussion in a classroom or book group, and the span of the main characters' ages through their teen years makes the book an appropriate choice for a wide range of readers. The setting, complete with television and other fixtures of contemporary life, demonstrates that this sort of tragedy belongs to our own time and not just the distant past. While attempts to explain the political situation at times break the flow of the narrative, this little-known piece of history has been brought to life with sensitivity and grace.--Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL

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