I'm excited to share with you BLUE BIRDS by Caroline Starr Rose. It's Caroline's second historical verse novel (first was MAY B.), and it is a lovely story of an unlikely friendship between English Alis and native Kimi in 1587 Lost Colony of Roanoke.
The book releases March 10, which is coming up shortly! I was lucky enough to score an ARC -- and now I am giving it away! Leave a comment to enter. Winner will be randomly drawn Sunday night (March 1).
Before I share a few excerpts from the book, you should know that Caroline and I have a few things in common: We love historical fiction. We both lived in Saudi Arabia. We share an editor. We've both written in voices of characters from cultures not our own. And more! Anything Caroline writes, I know I will savor and cherish and delight in.
There are a lot of opinions and strong, strong feelings as to who has permission to write certain books. I’m a non-Native American author. What gives me the right to try and speak for a thirteen-year-old Roanoke girl?
I’m still not sure. But I’ve been a girl. And I know how profoundly friendship can shape a person. I’ve been in new cultural settings and have learned to see the foreign as familiar and the familiar as foreign. This answer won’t be enough for some readers. I understand that. But I’ve gone ahead and written BLUE BIRDS anyway.
BLUE BIRDS hinges on a forbidden friendship, and if that’s not delicious, I don’t know what is!
When I first started drafting, I thought the story would come from one character, Alis, my English girl. But the more time I spent in her world, the more I realized the story didn’t belong to Alis alone.
Back in my teaching days, I loved to tell my students in order to most fully enjoy poetry, it must be seen and heard. A poet communicates with language, yes, but she also speaks to the reader through line breaks, stanza breaks, and the placement of words on a page.
My favorite passages in the book come from the poems Kimi and Alis share together. Here are two girls from two entirely different worlds, and yet they are drawn together. It was essential the structure of these dual-voice poems communicated as much as the words they contained.
Having heard so much about the dreaded sophomore novel, I was relieved to sell a picture book between MAY B. and BLUE BIRDS. With an entirely different kind of book scheduled to release next, I felt freed up to set aside my worries of comparison between the two novels. But guess what? Though BLUE BIRDS sold a year and a half after my picture book, it will release four months before. Both novels are historicals written in verse. The comparisons will probably come. I’m grateful, though, I was able to shut the door on this hangup during the creative process, that I could write without this burden in mind.
... and now, my favorite poem in the book. It's told in both girls' voices -- which makes it just about impossible to format on this blog! So I'm giving you a photograph instead:
Now, a favorite KIMI poem:
My mother and my aunts
work side by side,
their backs bend
as they tend the crops.
Like the corn,
spreads her roots wide,
like the bean,
settles her roots deep.
The English plans have been made plain:
Women mean they'll stay.
If we hope to rid ourselves of them,
push them from us
once and for all,
we must do it
before their roots take hold.
- Caroline Starr Rose
Finally, one from ALIS:
our home is cuffed by violent winds
and waves of rain,
This settlement will fly apart,
will be ripped like weeds,
until each board is stripped away.
This village is as fragile as an egg
unprotected in its nest.
for just an hour of rest.
- Caroline Starr Rose