Whitman, Sylvia. The Milk of Birds
16 April 2013, Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Both K.C. and Nawra have problems. K.C.'s parents are divorced, her older brother is obnoxious, and she struggles in school so much that her mother wants to have her tested. Nawra lives in Darfur, so her problems include several family members who have died, a crippled mother who won't talk, and a pregnancy resulting from a violent rape. The two exchange letters as part of a Save the Girls program, from which Nawra receives money her family desperately needs. K.C. is reluctant to write at first, since writing is difficult for her, but soon warms to the task and even is encouraged to start a fund raiser at her school to help people in Nawra's situation.
Strengths: We need more books on the difficulties young people face in other parts of the world, and I haven't seen much about Darfur. The contrast between the girls is enormous, so that was an interesting way to present the two worlds. Nawra's voice was very strong, and she was a strong and resilient character. While this dealt with some sensitive topics (female circumcision, rape), there was nothing too graphic, so this would be okay for most middle grades.
Weaknesses: This was a bit long (384 pages), and I could have done without so many details about K.C., who was not a sympathetic character.