The Day of the Pelican

The Day of the Pelican

Book - 2009
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In 1998 when the Kosovo hostilities escalate, thirteen-year-old Meli's life as an ethnic Albanian, changes forever after her brother escapes his Serbian captors and the entire family flees from one refugee camp to another until they are able to immigrate to America.
Publisher: Boston [Mass.] : Clarion Books, 2009
ISBN: 9780547181882
0547181884
Branch Call Number: J FICTION PATER...K
Characteristics: 145 pages ; 22 cm
Notes: "Houghton Mifflin Harcourt."

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b
bcomes
Nov 04, 2015

The Day of the Pelican, by Katherine Paterson, is about an 11 year old Albanian girl, Meli Lleshi, who lives in Kosovo with her family. The story starts in 1998 during the Kosovo War, when many Albanians were murdered by Serbs, and follows the family’s journey up until September 2001. When Meli draws a picture of her teacher looking like a pelican and gets in trouble for it, she thinks this causes all of her family’s troubles that follow. After her brother, Mehmet, is captured and beaten by Serbian police, Meli’s family is forced to flee from their home when the threat of violence from the Serbs becomes too much. The family is forced on a terrible trek by foot, train, and bus across the country to a refugee camp in Macedonia, where they finally get help to immigrate to America.
I liked this book, although the subject matter was disturbing at times, and it was interesting to learn about a time in recent history that I knew nothing about. The story about the Lleshi family was compelling, which made it hard to put the book down at times. One of the most distressing passages in the book occurs when the family is herded onto the train at gunpoint by Serbian soldiers. Given the time period in which the story takes place, Meli and her family would have known what happened to the Jews in WWII when they were loaded onto trains headed for concentration camps. When the freight train finally arrived, the Lleshis didn’t know where they were being taken or what would happen to them and the family was so terrified of being separated. This book made me stop and think “what would I do if this happened to me and my family?” What happened to the Albanian Kosovars was so terrible that it’s almost impossible to imagine.
There are a number of cultural similarities and differences between how Meli and her family lived and how a typical U.S. family would live. In the first chapter, the apartment where the Lleshis live is described as having many of the same things a typical American family would have - a TV, indoor plumbing, electricity, a refrigerator, and plenty of food. Unlike most Americans, however, they leave their shoes outside of the house as a form of respect. Similar to America, people from different ethnic groups live in their community side by side, although not always peacefully. The Serbian and Albanian children would recite terrible poems about the other ethnic groups, and unlike American children who would maybe play cops and robbers, Meli’s little brothers, Adil and Isuf, would play “Serb Police vs. KLA Man”. Cultural differences were also noticeable when Meli and her family came to the U.S. An example of this is when Meli discovers that she and other girls were allowed to play soccer in America, since this would have been unheard of and not allowed in Kosovo.
I recommend this book to teenagers aged 13+ because the themes and events that occur in it are truly awful at times. The book doesn’t go into a lot of graphic detail, but readers can understand the horrible circumstances that the Lleshis experience when they flee their homeland. Because Meli and Mehmet are teenagers during much of the story, readers in this age group might be able to best relate to the main characters in this book. Although this story is historical fiction, the family described in it seems very real and it presents very recent historical events that many people might not have ever heard of or known much about. It is relevant to current events, such as the Syrian refugee crisis because what happened in the Kosovo War was also based on religious and ethnic hate.

t
transitreader
Aug 26, 2011

This is the story of Meli a young Albanian Muslim living in Kosovo during the civil war. The story follows Meli and her family from a small town Kosovo to a refugee camp and finally to resettlement in the United States before 9/11.

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