The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson (Brilliance)

Earphones Winner

Tavia Gilbert gives an expert reading of Katherine Paterson’s moving account of a family of Albanian Muslims during the Kosovo War. As the Serbs begin their brutal ethnic cleansing, Meli Lleshi and her family flee their home, enduring Serbian atrocities and the terror of being hunted like animals. They face the ravages of hunger and cold, and the fear of separation, as they make their way toward Macedonia and their inevitable relocation to a refugee camp. Gilbert’s performance brings genuine pathos to the family’s plight without resorting to melodrama. When they immigrate to America, Gilbert makes their struggles with language and culture poignant, and after the 9/11 attacks, she makes the prejudice they face utterly realistic. Paterson’s brief historical endnote will assist young listeners’ understanding. AudioFile

The war in Kosovo in the 1990s is brought to life in Katherine Paterson’s novel (Clarion, 2009). The story follows Meli Lleshi, a 12-year-old Albanian girl, and her family as they begin to see violence escalating in their small town. The Serbians are the dominant force in the country and, under the leadership of war criminal Slobodan Milosevic, their brutality against the minority groups knows no boundaries. When the Lleshis and their extended family see the handwriting on the wall, they escape just as the violence reaches their doorstep. The trek to safety in Macedonia is a struggle, but they finally arrive at a refugee camp. When NATO effectively ends the war, Meli’s family decides to move to America where new struggles and hurdles await them. The story provides insight into the Albanian culture, the war in Kosovo, and what it feels like to be an immigrant in a new land. It also offers a glimpse into the role of women in these cultures. Narrator Tavia Gilbert does a marvelous job of representing the family’s accents when necessary but, for the most part, her narration is unaccented. She perfectly voices the emotional struggles of Meli and her family as they attempt to survive. A welcome addition to historical fiction and multicultural collections. School Library Journal