In 1998 when the Kosovo hostilities escalate, thirteen-year-old Meli's life as an ethnic Albanian, changes forever after her brother escapes his Serbian captors and the entire family flees from one refugee camp to another until they are able to immigrate to America.
Original publication date
I've lived in the region, and believe that Paterson captured the flavor of terror of the time. Not many books have been written that cover the genocides that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia; this wonderful tale will serve as an excellent entry into the time period for teen readers. Highly recommended!
Meli's father, Baba, consistently delivers the message that "hate doesn't make sense." Meli struggles with her own feelings of hatred toward the Serbs, and the family must grapple with being the recipient of hatred based on ethnic and religious prejudices. The novel gives a vivid glimpse into the realities of a Kosovar refugee, and the true impact of NATO's response to the conflict. It also accurately captures the way a regular teenager would respond to horrifying circumstances. Readers will easily relate to Meli's character.
This is a timely, thought-provoking novel that presents both the awful impact of hate and the heartwarming power of the human spirit to overcome. Interspersed in the story is accurate and important knowledge about the conflict in Kosovo. Highly recommended.
This book is suggested by the publisher for grades 5-9. I disagree. The underlying reason for the Lleshi family's flight is the ethnic cleansing of Albanian Kosovars. Additionally, there is veiled reference (explained more fully in the author's notes following the story) to war crimes against women - both very heavy topics for 10-year old readers. Additionally, Meli's brother, Mehmet, who becomes, understandably, radicalized by his treatment at the hand of the Serbs, is a difficult character for young readers to embrace. It is easy to dislike Mehmet for his headstrong and moody demeanor; and it will take an older, more experienced reader to comprehend the reality that makes Mehmet's character not only believable, but sadly commonplace.
Recommend this book to thoughtful older readers. Readers who stick with The Day of the Pelican will be enlightened.
While I think it's great to have a story told from the point of view of a Kosovar refugee, the execution was somewhat lacking, in my opinion. Parts of the story were very exciting, but parts of it dragged. The novel sprawled, which is quite a feat for such a short book. While it might be useful in social studies classes, I can't see kids picking this one up and sticking with it. Hand them Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipovic or Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate for war/refugee stories with more kid appeal.
The story didn't do much for me, but the narration was good! Tavia Gilbert did a good job with accents and voices. I enjoyed her performance and it elevated this ho-hum novel for me.