Homeless Bird: Gloria Whelan

Homeless Bird

Author: Gloria Whelan

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Year: 2000


Imagine marrying a person you’ve never met.

Imagine finding out that your new husband is very sick.

Imagine that when he dies, just a few weeks after your wedding day, you become a nobody… someone who is considered unlucky, someone that no one would ever dare to love again.

Imagine being abandoned in a strange city, with a …imagine having to survive on the streets, with just a sleeping roll and $1 – just one dollar! – in your hand.

Now imagine that all of this happens before your 14th birthday.

Set in India, Gloria Whelan’s Homeless Bird tells the story of Koli, a girl whose family considered her a burden.  At 13, she is married off to Hari in an arranged marriage.  Only after the wedding did she find out that the groom – a boy about her age – is dying, and that her in-laws wanted her only for what little dowry she could bring.  They use the money to travel to the holy waters of the Ganges, which they believe would miraculously heal Hari.

When Hari and his dad die, and his younger sister is married herself, her mother-in-law does what is many do with “unlucky” widows – she abandons Koli in a city called Vrindavan, where thousands of widows like her (young or old) live out the remainder of their lives on the streets, struggling to survive.

Whelan’s story paints a vivid, and oftentimes heartbreaking, story of Koli’s short-lived marriage, her friendships with the most unlikeliest people, her strained relationship with her mother-in-law, her despair after becoming homeless, and her will to survive.  What do you guys think you would do, if you were in her shoes?  What do you think happens to her?  Find out, when you take home Gloria Whelan’s Homeless Bird.

Awards, Honors and Prizes:

Ideas for using this book in classroom or library; brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core/etc.

  • Discussions on India: geography, history, culture/customs, etc.  What are some problems it is facing today?  What are some of its accomplishments?  Discuss the caste system in Inida — what does it mean?  how does it work?  How might the caste system dictate how people’s lives turn out?
  • Discuss child marriages in India (as well as other countries such as Ethiopia) and its implications (girls who are forced into child marriages often lose their chance to become educated, etc.)  What are some ways you, as a student in America, can bring about positive changes for girls in a different country?  Older students can explore different ways to get involved in advocacy — through literature, visual arts, music, film, photography, drama, etc.
  • We might not have “child marriages” in the US, but what are some ways that prevent children in getting an education here?
  • Watch clips from the film “Girl Rising” and discuss.  (Another clip about child marriages/education — this one about a girl in Ethiopia — can be seen here.)  What is it like for girls in some of the countries in the film?  How are their lives different from those of girls in America?  (Some scenes/content can be disturbing…use clips according to the school’s guidelines/rules.)
  • What were some things Koli did in order to survive?  How did she use her skills/resources to build a life for herself?
  • Link to discussion guide.  
  • Recommended for readers 10 and up.  Will primarily appeal to girls, students interested in India, and reluctant/struggling readers.  Would work well as a class read-aloud as a way of introducing a different culture, world issues such as poverty, women’s right to education, women’s equality movement, etc.  Could be an inspiration for kids who want to change the world.

Accessed at: Personal Library


Monkey, A Trickster Tale from India: Gerald McDermott

Monkey: A Trickster Tale from India

Author/Illustrator: Gerald McDermott
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publication Year: 2011
Brief Summary: The clever monkey tricks the crocodile into giving him rides to the mango trees.
Awards, Honors and Prizes:

Ideas for using this book in classroom or library and/or brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core, etc.:

  • Discuss trickster tales.  What are their characteristics?  Read other trickster tales by Gerald McDermott.
  • Is there a moral to this story?  What did the monkey say to the crocodile at the end?  What did he mean?
  • If you were the monkey, how would you cross the river?  Play a game with the students where they have to cooperate with each other to solve the problem.  For example, give teams of students the same objects like a rope, a scooter, a beach towel, etc., and challenge them to get their entire team across the river (the playground or the classroom) without touching the ground or the “water” (unless they want to be eaten by the crock!).  Teams who touch the ground by accident must start over. What does this game teach us?  Creative problem-solving, teamwork, etc.

Special features included (if applicable) — index; timeline; author’s notes; further reading; etc.  

Accessed at: Capilano Library

Seven Blind Mice: Ed Young

Seven Blind Mice 

Author/Illustrator: Ed Young
Publisher: Philomel
Publication Year: 1988
Brief Summary: In trying to figure out what the strange “Something” is by the bond, seven blind mice learn that sometimes the truth surfaces only after you put together all the parts. Based on an Indian fable.

Awards, Honors and Prizes:

 Ideas for using this book in classroom or library:
  • Discuss fables…what makes a fable?  What are the characteristics of a fable?  (Animals, moral)
  • What lesson did the mice learn at the end of their investigation?
  • Have you ever had someone jump to conclusions about you?  Or have you ever jumped to conclusions about something after hearing only parts of the story?  Write about what happens.

Brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core/etc.

  • Language arts: fables
  • Text-to-self connections

Special features included (if applicable) — index; timeline; author’s notes; further reading; etc.
Accessed at: Thrasher Elementary Library

One Grain of Rice: Demi

One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale

Author/Illustrator: Demi
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Year: 1997
Brief Summary: Clever village girl Rana use her mathematical knowledge to gain a handsome reward from the selfish raja.

Awards, Honors and Prizes:

 Ideas for using this book in classroom or library:
  • Social studies: Where is India on the world map?  Discuss cultural aspects of India.
  • What is a famine?  Discuss famine/hunger as a global issue.  How did the raja prepare for an impending famine?  Did he keep to his plan?  Why or why not?
  • Organize a food drive and donate to local food banks.
  • Math: How could she get from 1 to 1 billion in 30 days?   Discuss the doubling effect in math.  Show chart at the end of the book, or copy a template of the chart with some numbers whited out…have students work with a calculator to fill in the chart.  What is the mathematical equation for this?

Brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core/etc.

  • Social studies: India; social issues such as famines
  • Math

Special features included (if applicable) — index; timeline; author’s notes; further reading; etc. More lesson ideas can be found at http://illuminations.nctm.org/LessonDetail.aspx?ID=L713

Accessed at:  Thrasher Elementary Library