I love, love, love how Barbara O'Connor's main characters. They are usually kids with lives that are not all that easy (kind of like the kids I teach). They are not the kids with nice clothes, and dance lessons, and families that eat dinner together every night. And yet in spite of all of their difficulties, they manage to survive and actually do pretty ok. Georgina and Kirby and Willow give my kids the courage to try just one more day, and a little bit of hope that maybe better times are just around the corner.
FAME AND GLORY IN FREEDOM, GEORGIA definitely fits into this category. Bird is a sixth grade girl. She's the kind of kid who is pretty much on the outs of the social scene, no one wants to be her friend. Her best friend is Miss Delphine Reese, a neighbor who spends her days taking care of her elderly father. Bird has two goals in life-- she wants to be noticed, to have a few minutes of fame and glory, and she wants to go to Disney World.
When Harlem Tate moves to town, Bird can see that he needs a friend as badly as she does. Harlem is bigger than all of the other kids, and is rumored to have spent three years in the sixth grade. He's messy and doesn't smell too good. And he lives above a tattoo parlor with Mr. Moody, the town miscreant whose only job is collecting tin cans in a black plastic bag slung over his back.
One day Bird's teacher, Mrs. Moore, announces that the school will have a spelling bee, with great prizes like bikes and encyclopedias. The winner will go to the state spelling bee, and the winner of that event will get a trip to Disney World. Bird knows that the spelling bee is her opportunity to accomplish her two goals. The trouble is, the spelling bee is a partner thing and of course no one wants to be Bird's partner. Bird goes to work on Harlem and the two develop an unlikely friendship.
This is one of those books that's a great story, but also teaches kids lots of life lessons. The book reminds kids (and adults) to be gentle, because you never know what people might be going through. It reminds them to follow their dreams. And it gives kids a friend named Bird, a girl who has the courage and strength of character to keep hoping and to do right things, in spite of what people around her may do or think. (There's one scene toward the end, I don't want to give it away, but Bird reminds me of Atticus Finch sitting in front of the courthouse).
I loved Bird and Harlem and Miss Delphine. I love this book! Barbara O'Connor is amazing.