Pablo and Birdy written by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Ana Juan is a fascinating novel for middle graders about friendship, community and the human quest for identity. Pablo is ten years old and his friends on the Island of Isla, known for its birds, each year celebrate his un-birthday because they don’t know when he was born. What they do know is when he washed up on their shore after a violent storm. Emmanuel, a Cuban American who runs a souvenir shop on the island, found him tied to a baby swimming pool along with a lavender parrot hanging on tight to the rope.
The entire community of Isla welcomed the tiny refugee to their shores. The baby along with the devoted parrot who would not talk and would not fly, was adopted by Emmanuel.
There was a long list of speculations about Pablo’s identity among the loving community including Lulu who runs the tattoo shop, Pierre who runs a bake shop and Maria who tends the animals at Maria’s Critter Clinic, to name a few. Their stories range from the thought that Pablo was a precocious baby who took off from his own backyard for a swim by himself and was too close to the tide, or a bad baby whose parents put him out to sea to be rid of him, or a baby from a world not yet discovered. Pablo was fed up with these and other stories about his identity. Now at ten years of age he wanted the truth but only Birdy knew what that was.
The story slowly takes the reader through Pablo’s realization that Birdy is in danger from zealots who believe in the legend of The Seafaring Parrots that says these parrots have heard every voice and sound that has ever been spoken down through the ages and should be captured, locked up and studied. To save Birdy Pablo must give him up and let him fly away. Pablo’s love for and loss of Birdy Bird is beautifully felt in this exquisite story spoken with a soft whisper of magic realism.
Pablo and Birdy written by Alison McGhee and lovingly illustrated by Ana Juan is appropriate for 9-12 year olds (A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book/ Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017.
Questions/activities for PABLO AND BIRDY
Throughout the book Pablo tries to understand the meaning of a folk saying: The winds of change mean fortune lost or fortune gained. By the end of the story what fortune is lost and by whom and what fortune is gained and to whom? How does Pablo feel about his loss?
The people of Isla have many stories about where Pablo came from and how he happened to wash up on their shore ten years ago. Using your imagination add to the list of possibilities by making up your own story about how Pablo and Birdy came to the beach on Isla. Remember, your story can be realistic or full of magic! Draw a picture for the cover of your story.
How do Birdy and Pablo show the reader they are devoted to each other? How does Birdy take care of Pablo and how does Pablo take care of Birdy?
The Seafaring Parrot is said to be a magic bird. Legend has it that these parrots have heard every voice and sound and utterance that has ever been made down through the ages. If you could ask a seafaring parrot to speak whose voice or what utterance would you like to hear? Why?