Blackbird Fly

Blackbird Fly 51bUN1QbdVL__SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Blackbird Fly

Erin Entrada Kelly, Author

Greenwillow Books, Fiction, Mar. 24, 2015

Paperback Reprint Mar. 1, 2016, 320 pages

Suitable for Ages: 8-12 years

Themes: Bullying, Outcasts, Filipino Americans, Family relationships, Friendships, Middle School, Music, Multicultural

Book Synopsis:  Twelve-year-old Apple Yengko believes that there are at least three interesting facts about every person on Earth. Unfortunately, her three IFs make her an outcast in Chapel Spring Middle School in Chapel Spring, Louisiana. She has slanted eyes, a weird Filipino nickname, and a weird mother.

When Apple is voted the third ugliest girl in school, her life quickly falls apart. The boys bark at her in the halls and rumors spread that she eats dogs for dinner. Music is her only escape. All she needs is enough money to buy a guitar, and then she’ll be able to change herself and her life forever. So what if her mother doesn’t understand and thinks she’s becoming too American. So what if her supposed best friends turn the other way…

It might be the Beatles and their music who save Apple, or Mr. Z (Chapel Spring Middle’s awesome music teacher) — or it could be two unexpected friends who show her that standing out in a crowd is better than getting lost in it.

Why I like this book:

  • This is a painfully realistic story by Erin Entrada Kelly about the impact of bullying on an Filipino-American teen who is trying to find her place in a Louisiana middle school. It is an emotionally honest novel about Apple, who feels like an outsider because of her ethnic background. Her best friends turn on her and their boyfriends put Apple on a secret Dog Log list of the ugliest girls at school. Teens who feel different and deal daily with cruelty in middle school, will find Apple a must read.
  • Apple is a strong, smart, quirky and likeable character who loves the Beatles, wants to play the guitar, and be the next George Harrison. Music is her only link to her deceased father. Her over protective mother forbids her to play the guitar or join the school swing choir at school. Apple is embarrassed by her mother who speaks with an accent, clings to old values and cooks Filipino foods. She becomes friends with a new boy, Evan Temple, who is self-assured and doesn’t care what others think of him. He accepts Apple for who she is and encourages her music. They befriend Helena Moffett, who is overweight, is on the Dog Log and has a secret weapon — a powerful singing voice.  Together, the three friends take on the bullies.
  • Kelly’s first-person narrative is extremely effective. The plot is courageous and stays true the theme of what it feels like to be an outsider. I love that Apple spreads her wings like her favorite Beatles song, Blackbird. The pacing is fast, which makes this novel a quick read. There are many unexpected surprises, including the ending which is happily satisfying. 

Erin Entrada Kelly grew up in south Louisiana. Her mother was the first in her family to immigrate to the United States from the Philippines.  Blackbird Fly is her debut novel. Visit Kelly at her website.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

Since many of my reviews include diverse books, please check out Diverse Children’s Booksa brand new book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds. Spread the word by using #diversekidlit on Twitter. Check out the logo in my sidebar.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

31 thoughts on “Blackbird Fly

  1. This sounds like a book many young people will relate to. The situations are very real. This is a book that may help in understanding and tolerance.


    • It is a book about tolerance and understanding. Most youth will identify with some aspect of the story because of the bullying. I decided to review the book today since it has to do with music helping a girl heal — after reviewing Peter Reynolds’ book Friday about the healing power of music. Thanks for the RT!


  2. I love the books you chose to review, like this one so many have heart and emotion. So realistic, I must see if I can locate this in our libraries here. Thanks for sharing Pat.


    • Wow! Thank you so much for sharing Erin’s blog post. She writes from the heart and does get it! I hope others will se your post. I also reviewed Peter Reynolds’ new book “Playing from the Heart” last Friday as it also deals with the joy of music and healing. I decided to run the book reviews close together.


  3. This one has pinged my radar before, so I’m really glad you brought it back to my attention, and this time I’ve actually walked myself over to goodreads and added it to the list! lol It truly sounds like a lovely book, and one I need to read. Thanks for sharing!


    • I’m delighted this book resonates with you. I believe many have our stories, but it can be really difficult for kids from diverse backgrounds. But, this book has a very surprising and satisfying ending.


  4. Hi there Children’s Books Heal,

    The author of the children’s book, My Neighborhood , Mark Saint Juste , has launched a global campaign to stop bullying , racism and violence in schools.

    Please watch the Get Me Me Summary video on Youtube via the link below and share it with your friends if you care about kids.

    Thank you.

    Sincerely ,

    Ninita Nanganlag Global Promotions Director

    Sent from my iPhone



  5. Sounds like there are some painful scenes in this one. But I love that music is a healing factor. And there are not too many books with Filipino characters out there. I’m going to recommend that my local library get this one if they don’t already have it.


    • The music and the friendships she makes with two other outcasts and her music teacher — who is cool. Yes, I was delighted to find a book with a Filipino character. Loved this book!


  6. Oh wow, Pat, this bullying sounds so authentic. But sometimes we need such reality to understand the wounds we can inflict. I am very happy to see a Filipino protagonist in this novel and a hopeful resolution.


    • I was thrilled to find this story with a Filipino protagonist! The bullying was brutal and painful for Apple. Thank goodness for friendships. I believe all teens will relate to this story in some way.


  7. After reading your review, I ordered this book. It did a superb job of putting the reading in the shoes of someone being “othered”. Great book for nurturing empathy


  8. Pingback: Summer Reading — Middle Grade Book Recommendations | THE STARBORN REVUE

  9. I am always on the look-out for good books about bullying -thank you – from your review and the comments of those who have also read it, this definitely sounds one to seek out.


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