Saturday, April 3, 2010
THE EVER-AFTER BIRD by Ann Rinaldi
If he hadn't been determined to help runaway slaves, he would still be alive. That's why CeCe McGill hates abolitionists. Her father devoted his life and their home to giving aid as part of the Underground Railroad, but it was also what ended his own life when he was shot. His death left CeCe an orphan.
When CeCe's uncle, a doctor and an artist, arrives after her father's death, she is nervous about leaving the only home she's ever known to live with him in Ohio. It doesn't take long for her to realize he has a kind and gentle soul. So why is it a surprise when she learns he is an abolitionist just like her late father?
The difference is that CeCe finds herself more directly involved in the abolitionist movement. Uncle Alex and his assistant, a young, black college student, are planning a trip to the South. Uncle Alex wants to study rare birds, and his assistant wants to research the institution of slavery for her studies at Oberlin College. CeCe is invited along for the adventure.
The three travelers must adhere to the behaviors and customs of the South. Uncle Alex's assistant, Earline, will be assuming the role of slave, and CeCe and her uncle must act in character as her owner and mistress. If they are discovered, the punishment could result in death. CeCe is well aware that her uncle will be doing more than just searching for the scarlet ibis know as the Ever-After bird. He will also be helping point slaves in the direction of freedom.
CeCe's adventure is filled with educational opportunities as she learns about the world of rare birds and the workings of slavery. She sees the hope of freedom, but it is often colored with the tragedy of abusive treatment and even death. All she hopes is that they survive and, in some small way, make the world a better place.
Ann Rinaldi is well-known for her historical fiction. THE EVER-AFTER BIRD paints a unique picture of slavery in the South, and the fight fought by brave individuals who wanted to see its end. Her descriptions compare the gentle refinement of the South with the startling reality of life behind the grand plantation houses and blooming magnolia bushes.