Review: Nest by Esther Ehrlich

Title: Nest
Author: Esther Ehrlich
Publication Date: September 9th, 2014
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Genre: Middle-Grade Fiction
Pages: 336
ISBN: 0385386079
Source: ARC from Publisher

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
For fans of Jennifer Holm (Penny from Heaven, Turtle in Paradise), a heartfelt and unforgettable middle-grade novel about an irresistible girl and her family, tragic change, and the healing power of love and friendship. In 1972 home is a cozy nest on Cape Cod for eleven-year-old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein, her older sister, Rachel; her psychiatrist father; and her dancer mother. But then Chirp’s mom develops symptoms of a serious disease, and everything changes.
   Chirp finds comfort in watching her beloved wild birds. She also finds a true friend in Joey, the mysterious boy who lives across the street. Together they create their own private world and come up with the perfect plan: Escape. Adventure. Discovery.
   Nest is Esther Ehrlich’s stunning debut novel. Her lyrical writing is honest, humorous, and deeply affecting. Chirp and Joey will steal your heart. Long after you finish Nest, the spirit of Chirp and her loving family will stay with you. 

Praise for Nest:

"A poignant, insightful story of family crisis and the healing power of friendship."--Kirkus Reviews, Starred

"A stunning debut, with lyrical prose and superbly developed characters. . . . [Readers] will savor Nest and reflect on it long after its conclusion."--School Library Journal, Starred

"Ehrlich’s novel beautifully captures the fragile bond shared by Chirp and Joey and their growing trust for each other in a world filled with disappointments and misunderstandings."--Publishers Weekly, Starred 

"Chirp’s first-person voice is believable; her poignant earnestness is truly heartrending. Ehrlich writes beautifully, constructing scenes with grace and layers of telling detail and insight."--The Horn Book

Esther Ehrlich is the author of Nest, her debut novel forthcoming from Wendy Lamb Books/Random House in September 2014. Ehrlich was born and raised in Boston, graduated from Vassar College, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.

Here’s more you might like to know:
I’m the youngest of four children, all of us very close in age. In the neighborhood we grew up in, kids played four-square in the street, tag in the nearby field, and ice-skated at Crystal Lake in winter. The one rule that I remember? Be home by dinner. When life felt rough, school was a comfort. So were my best friends, two rabbits who lived in a hutch in our backyard. I spent as much time with them as I could and tried my hardest to teach them to come, sit, and stay. And books. I especially loved the sad but ultimately hopeful ones where kids took matters into their own hands and made things happen.

What else?
In my Jewish family, everybody talked at once and interrupting wasn’t considered interrupting and it was perfectly normal, expected even, to ask a ton of questions and answer a question with another question.
For a few weeks each summer, I ran wild on Cape Cod, tromping around the dunes, swimming across ponds, sleeping in a tent or throwing a sleeping bag down on the thick mat of bearberry and watching the stars until I drifted off to sleep.

My experience in math class, early on, wasn’t good. The class was set up to be competitive and it made numbers feel intimidating—rigid and harsh. Words, by contrast, felt wonderfully flexible, full of possibility, of light.

And so many years later, they still do. It feels like an amazing gift to spend my time choosing words to shape into sentences to create stories that I can share with others.

I'm sensing we have another runner up for that Newbery next year. I'm expecting to at least see this title on the list. Esther Ehrlich has introduced herself in a novel that will take the reader on a thoughtful and resilient journey of life, death, and friendship. This book is not for the faint of heart. 

As the reader experiences the world through our protagonist, Chirp, they will see the world in a coming-of-age transition. The story is set in Cape Cod, a location very familiar to the author. Naomi, or Chirp, is a young girl with a mother who is a dancer, a father whose job and hobby is to psychoanalyze the people around him, and her sister, Rachel, who is blossoming into her own as well. Down the street lives Chirp's classmate Joey and his troublesome brothers that add plenty of their own flavor to the story.

One thing I'd like to note is that Ehrlich made Chirp and her family Jewish. I'm currently doing an assignment for school about finding solutions to cultural gaps within our curriculum of approaching Children's Literature in Elementary Schools and Public Library programs. I know this is a reflection of the author's personal life, but there is evidence that Children read more if they feel like they can relate to the characters. Nest is a book that kids with a Jewish background can connect to, and non-Jewish kids can be exposed to some of the plights they have. I think it's wonderful to have a contemporary book for this age group taking on this task, and raising interest in good literature.

The cover illustrations are soft and esthetically pleasing. I love the detail and the title immediately grabs your attention with the intricacies representative of a bird's nest. 

Readers will enjoy the charm and depth of story between the pages of Nest. I fell in love with the characters, and I was laughing and crying right along with them. This is definitely one of my favorite middle-grade books I've read this year!

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