“The Amazing Life of Birds” by Gary Paulsen

29 May


"The Amazing Life of Birds," from the author of "Hatchet," is sub-titled "The Twenty-Day Puberty Journal of Duane Homer Leech." That sub-title pretty much gives you the whole story right there. This is a very short novel with some truly laugh-out-loud illustrations, which compare twelve year-old Duane to the baby bird nesting outside his window. Duane would like to be known as "Duey," but his classmates, rather unfortunately, refer to him with the nickname "Doo Doo." Over the twenty days covered by Duane's journal, the reader is treated to one humiliating incident after another, as Duane breaks out, suffers a series of embarrassing falls and stumbles, stammers incoherently each time he sees a girl he likes, and, to top it off, unwittingly starts a panic about a ringworm epidemic at school (don't ask — it involves Duane's unruly cowlick and a truly bad self-inflicted hair cut).

While much of this may sound awful to read, it's not. Paulsen writes in a gentle, humorous tone, which greatly softens the sting of Duane's mishaps. Even better, Duane never comes off as whiny or annoying. He's just a regular kid going through a difficult time, yet he still manages to be thoughtful and funny. When Duane finally gets his moment to shine near the story's end, the reader will be delighted for him. It's a very real victory, and the ending — just like the rest of the novel — should be reassuring for all young readers who are facing the same changes as Duane. I would definitely recommend this easy-to-read, fun story to boys and girls in grades 5 and up.

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Posted by on May 29, 2007 in Uncategorized


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