by Gloria Whelan
Homeless Bird won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature in 2000. Aimed at the audience of 9 to 12 year olds, it has charm for any age reader. I often found myself wondering about young Koly throughout the day.
Koly's parents arrange for her marriage to a young man in another village when Koly is only 13 years old. She tries to catch glimpses of her husband during the wedding and hears his voice for the first time as he says the wedding vows. He is much younger than the 16 years his parents were told, perhaps even younger than Koly, and he is very sick. Soon after the wedding, the bridegroom dies and Koly becomes a widow.
I felt a great deal of pain for Koly who tries to make the most of her situation even though she is filled with despair at times. Whelan handles the isolation of widows in India in a gentle manner for young readers, while providing glimpses of the fear and despair, the separation from family and the trials of both young and old women who are not taken care of in society.
I highly recommend this little gem.