________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 19 . . . . May 24, 2002

cover Birdie for Now. (An Orca Young Reader).

Jean Little. Illustrated by Rene‚ Benoit.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2002.
154 pp., pbk., $6.95.
ISBN 1-55143-203-X.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4


"Did you take your pill at two?" [his mother] asked. ...

"YES! I am fine as fine as fine," he shouted, leaping up and rushing to pour himself a glass of water. The chair fell over with a crash, and when he turned the tap on, water sprayed in all directions.

"Oh baby, watch what you're doing!' she wailed. But he saw relief in her face. She knew this boy. He was hers. Maybe she wanted him to stay this way. Did she like his being her own special wild Birdie?...He could not bear the thought.

"I'm watching every minute. It's only water, Mum. ... It's not dire. And I'm OKAY ...," he said, struggling to stay in control.

"I'm sorry, baby," she said, her eyes filling with the tears he so hated. "I know you're trying hard. But you'll have to get yourself to settle down if you are to go to the regular school, Birdie." ...

"I KNOW!" he cried aloud, his eyes wild. "Don't you think I know anything? I'm weird. Your weird kid. So weird I can't even have a dog like other kids."

His last few words had dropped to a whisper. Had she heard?

Birdie for Now is a story about growing up, and the young protagonist is not the only one doing the growing! Dickon is an 11-year-old kid who is called Dick by his recently decamped father, Birdie by his mother, and various insulting epithets, such as Twitchy and Dizzy Duck, by his classmates who remember his pre-meds ADHD behaviour patterns. His mother is young, computer smart, and unsure of herself, but she has just got a proper job at a bank in the town in south-western Ontario where she grew up. She and Dickon move into a cramped ugly house whose chief advantage in Dickon's eyes, disadvantage in his mother's, is that it backs on the Humane Society's field where their animals are exercised and where summer obedience-school classes are to be held. Dickon loves dogs; his mother hates and fears them, having been bitten as a child. Dickon's determination that he will succeed in helping to train an abused, highly bred, Papillon bitch left at the Centre overcomes his mother's objections, and she allows him to have the dog, whose name, coincidentally, is also Birdie, home for a weekend's trial. Despite Birdie's several lapses on the housebreaking front, Dickon's mother finally realizes that, for the first time and all because of this little dog, her loving but totally impulse-driven son has managed to stay focused and on task, has taken responsibility effectively and willingly, and has made real friends with other children. In deciding that she must allow Birdie to stay, she is tacitly allowing her "Birdie" to grow up and is, in fact, growing up herself.

     Jean Little loves dogs and obviously understands the bond that can form between dog and child. In Birdie for Now, she has also given real insight into how it feels to be ADHD---the urgent need for activity, the scatteredness of thought and the difficulty of keeping focused on anything. In an unpedantic way, the book gently offers hope for both parents and children that it may sometimes be possible to find something that will be a key to helping manage their own ADHD problem. The theme of a boy winning over an abused dog with gentleness and love is not new, but the emphasis that this book puts on relationships and their development makes it an outstanding read.


Mary Thomas works in two elementary school libraries in Winnipeg, MB, and wonders if perhaps a dog or two would help some of her twitchier clients!

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364