The Day of the Pelican

by Katherine Paterson

Hardcover, 2009



Local notes

Fic Pat



Clarion Books (2009), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 145 pages. $16.00.


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


Physical description

145 p.; 8.3 inches


0547181884 / 9780547181882



User reviews

LibraryThing member ForeignCircus
This masterful tale of one girl's journey from childhood across a war-torn landscape easily stands with Paterson's body of work. Meli and her family are forced to flee their home- first to the mountains, then to a refugee camp in Macedonia, and finally to a small town in Vermont- in order to survive as Kosovo goes up in flames. Though the harsh realities of war are muted in the narrative, there are veiled references to rape, torture, and genocide that will be picked up by older readers. The strength of this story lies in its focus on what these larger world events mean to one girl already struggling to chart her path into adulthood. When Meli leaves Kosovo, she leaves her childhood behind as well.

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!
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LibraryThing member Litfan
I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of "The Day of the Pelican." For a short novel, it packs a punch. It's the story of Meli, an 11-year-old Albanian living in Kosovo at the time of the ethnic cleansing. Meli and her family are forced to flee for their own survival, living with family members and then in the wilderness to try to escape. Meli's brother, Mehmet, is awed by the Kosovo Liberation Army and wants nothing more than to join and fight the Serbs. The family must decide if they can somehow make a life in Kosovo after the conflict ends, or start over elsewhere.

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.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
I wasn't sure I would enjoy this book, but I like Ms. Paterson, so I gave it a try. I really liked the family that she created and the way Ms. Paterson showed how hate grows and how it can be fought. I really admired the father figure in this novel and I felt that the story was told with compassion and with realism. Great introduction to some of the issues that surround the violence in Kosovo.… (more)
LibraryThing member shelf-employed
The Day of the Pelican (so named for an incident involving a drawing of a pelican that occurred on the day that Meli's life took a turn for the worse) is a historical fiction account of the flight of 11-year old Meli Lleshi's Kosovar Albanian family from the Serbian ethnic cleansing campaign of terror. Meli comes from a large, tight-knit extended family, however the focus of the book is primarily on Meli, her older brother Mehmet, and her parents. After Mehmet is arrested, jailed, beaten and left for dead by the local police force, the Lleshis are forced to admit and react to the fact that they are no longer welcomed in their homeland.

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.
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LibraryThing member CatheOlson
I chose this book to review because I'm a big fan of Paterson (Bridge of Teribithia). This book was good -- but I wouldn't say great. It's about an Albanian girl in Kosovo during the late 1990's who has to leave her home because of the Serbs who are killing Albanians. She ends up in a camp in Macedonia and eventually comes to the US. The book was well-written but I just never really got attached to the character and the story just didn't seem to go deep enough for me -- I guess because it's geared to younger and maybe this is as much detail as they could handle. I also was confused as to why Mehmet was picked up and beaten. I think since this is a subject not really well known -- especially by kids, it would have been nice to have a bit of explanation of what the problem was between the Serbs and the Albanians. I do this is a good book for 4-6 graders to see what other kids go through in times of war.… (more)
LibraryThing member Sullywriter
Read the ARC. Excellent story about Muslim refugees in Kosovo.
LibraryThing member lindap69
insight into the Albanian genocide by Serbians in Kosovo, harrowing yet hopeful; some universal themes make this a good choice for book discussion.
LibraryThing member librarian1204
Paterson does a great job with a time and place that is not often covered in childrens' books.
LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
Didn't finish - maybe another time, but after just a few pp it reminded me too much of the WWII Holocaust stories and all the Karen Hesse I've been reading lately, and I just need a break.
LibraryThing member abbylibrarian
Meli and her family are forced to leave their Kosovo home after the Serbs begin a program of ethnic cleansing to rid the area of Muslims.

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.
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(35 ratings; 3.8)
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