BIRDIE’S BARGAIN, by Katherine Paterson, Candlewick, Oct. 19, 2021, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 9-12)
A 10-year-old makes a deal with God in exchange for the safe return of her dad from Iraq in Birdie’s Bargain, by Katherine Paterson.
Birdie has questions for God. For starters, why couldn’t God roll history back to September 10, 2001, and fix things — so the next day was an ordinary sunny day and not the devastating lead-in to two wars? Daddy has already been to Iraq twice. Now he’s going again, and Birdie is sure he’ll die. At the very least, she won’t see him again for a year, and everything will not be OK. (Why do grown-ups lie?)
To save money, she, Mom, and baby Billy have moved to Gran’s, where shy Birdie must attend a new school, and no one but bossy Alicia Marie Suggs welcomes her. Doesn’t God remember how hard it was for Birdie to make friends at Bible Camp? Counselor Ron taught about Judgment there — and the right way to believe. Has Birdie been praying wrong? Why else would God break their bargain? —Synopsis provided by Candlewick
Author Katherine Paterson is no stranger to hard topics (she won the Newbery Medal for Bridge to Terabithia, which centers around the death of a child). In Birdie’s Bargain, she tackles two equally difficult subjects — faith and the effect of war on military families.
Through Birdie, readers will see faith through different intensities. Birdie’s Bargains opens the door for conversations on what people believe, why they believe what they do, and the differences in beliefs within Christianity. As a parent, it also showed how easily a phrase or suggestion can take on a life of its own.
As with all of Paterson’s heroes, Birdie’s imperfections are what make her endearing. Her spirit is what makes you root for her. And her resilience pulls you through the book.
Birdie’s Bargain is a book set in the real world, with real-world problems. It’s anchored in reality, and finds beauty in the sadness. It’s an excellent read.