Title: Flight of the Puffin
Author: Ann Braden
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Published: May 4, 2021
Triggers: Bullying, Racism
This is the story of four kids and how one act of kindness leads to a chain reaction of hope. Libby's family are all bullies and Libby struggles to break this cycle and how everyone perceives her. Jack lives in a rural area and attends a two-room K-8 school which the local town is considering closing due to problems with the facilities and Jack wants to do anything he can to save it while also struggling with the grief of losing his brother. Vincent loves triangles and is the target for a group of bullies and at home his mom isn't always supportive of his differences. T and their dog are homeless and struggling just to survive from day to day. Chance encounters and a love of art bring all four of these kids together in an unexpected way which helps them find the courage to be themselves.
I adored this book and its message of kindness without the expectation of receiving anything in return. Each of the characters had their own stories to tell and the author developed each of them using a different voice and style. Libby is misunderstood, artistic, and reminded me of so many different people and how society often judges people based on their families and appearances and not on who they are as individuals on the inside. You first meet Libby painting a sunrise on a wall of the school which quickly leads to her sitting in the principal's office and hearing him saying, "Are you going to be just like your brother? And your dad?" (p. 2). Libby tries to do the opposite of her family but always seems to end up in trouble. After being grounded at home, Libby finds inspiration in a stolen rock and art supplies, borrowed from school, to draw inspirational cards. She leaves the cards all over town for others to find and even mails one to a boy in Seattle who likes puffins.
Jack is helpful, strong, and resourceful. He is mourning the loss of his brother and now has to worry about losing his school after someone from the state education department visits and decides it doesn't meet the state standards. After being misunderstood at a school board meeting, Jack begins to make sense of things about his brother that a year ago he was too young to understand. He receives a message from Vincent that helps him see what he has to do to make things right in his little part of the world.
Vincent is smart, lonely, and brave. He loves triangles and looks for them in everything. He is bullied at school and often ends up shoved inside a locker. Vincent's mom buys him clothes that she hopes will help him fit in better and not be bullied as much. So when Vincent finds a shirt with a puffin on in, he decides to wear it because he loves triangles and puffins have lots of triangles. The people who surround him don't seem to understand or accept who he is and he feels all alone until he receives a postcard in the mail that says, "Fly free! We're right behind you. Because YOU are amazing" (p. 134). This helps him realize what he needs to do.
T is homeless and scared. Their part in the story is written in verse so you only receive a little bit of information so their story is the least well developed. You learn that they don't consider themselves to be a boy or a girl and that they ran away from home so they could be themselves. Vincent meets T and helps them in different ways but mostly just by seeing T and listening. T also helps Vincent with his bullying problem at school.
The book carries themes of bullying, hope, being true to yourself, kindness matters, and compassion. Flight of the Puffin takes place in various cities across the United States and what they are isn't really important to the story--it is more important to understand that you can have an impact on other people's lives no matter where they are, if you only try.
We need more stories in our world like this one. To be honest, we need more people in this world like these children.
Read Alikes: You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly, Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff, Paper Things by Jennifer Jacobson, Starfish by Lisa Fipps, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, or Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry
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This blog is written by Mrs. McHugh and her Library Advisory Club members.