Black Bird, Blue Road

by Sofiya Pasternack (Author)

Black Bird, Blue Road
Reading Level: 6th — 7th Grade

In this historical fantasy novel from Sydney Taylor Honor winner and National Jewish Book Award finalist Sofiya Pasternack, Ziva will do anything to save her twin brother Pesah from his illness--even facing the Angel of Death himself.

Pesah has lived with leprosy for years, and the twins have spent most of that time working on a cure. Then Pesah has a vision: The Angel of Death will come for him on Rosh Hashanah, just one month away. So Ziva takes her brother and runs away to find doctors who can cure him. But when they meet and accidentally free a half-demon boy, he suggests paying his debt by leading them to the fabled city of Luz, where no one ever dies--the one place Pesah will be safe. They just need to run faster than The Angel of Death can fly...

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
Propulsive, wise, and heartbreaking.


Readers will be intrigued by the ravens that follow Pesah everywhere, the details of the city of Luz (where no one dies), and Pesah's vision that the Angel of Death will visit him on Rosh Hashanah. This works as an adventure, but it should also prompt discussions about the ethics of preserving life at all costs.

Horn Book Magazine

Pasternack (Anya and the Dragon) writes with a storyteller's cadence without sacrificing liveliness, keeping emotions front and center ("She'd jab the Angel of Death in every single one of its eyeballs if that meant keeping Pesah safe").

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

In this dazzling historical fantasy, Pasternack (the Anya and the Dragon duology) tells of a tender sibling bond set in the little-known medieval Jewish empire of Khazaria. In the city of Atil, newly 12-year-old Ziva bat Leah is desperate to keep her brilliant, beloved twin brother, Pesah, from dying of leprosy. Inventive Pesah is kept in a house of his own on the Jewish family's property, but when the siblings' doctor uncle recommends that Pesah be sent to a far-flung colony, Ziva packs the siblings up and hits the road, hoping to find a cure. They soon meet up with a half-sheydim boy with whom they travel, but they're racing against time, and the long journey is shadowed quite literally by Malach hamavet--the Angel of Death himself. Pasternack shows how Ziva's love of justice drives her, while depicting a world in which spirits are manifest, healers come in many forms, and a bold girl can literally bargain with the Angel of Death. Tenderly rendering Ziva's feelings of responsibility--including around Pesah's physical care and amputating his infected fingers and toes--Pasternack imagines a rich, omen-filled journey that powerfully shows love and its limits. A contextualizing afterword and glossary conclude. Ages 8-12. Agent: Rena Rossner, Deborah Harris Agency. (Sept.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Part fantasy, part adventure... a touching story about the lengths we go to save those we love. A magical tale, beautifully told." — Anne Blankman, National Jewish Book Award and Sydney Taylor Honor winning author of The Blackbird Girls

"A bit reminiscent of Madeleine L'Engle, a bit reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz, this story... will keep young readers breathless until its heart-rending conclusion." — Susan Lynn Meyer, Sydney Taylor Honor winning author of Black Radishes and Skating With the Statue of Liberty

"Unforgettable... Cleverly weaves mythology and Jewish traditions to highlight the incredible courage and resilience of family." — Chris Baron, author of All of Me and The Magical Imperfect

A gripping story of two siblings that will do everything they can to save each other... Brilliantly crafted, heartbreakingly beautiful. — Ally Malinenko, author of Ghost Girl

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
September 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV037000 - Juvenile Fiction | Fantasy & Magic
JUV001000 - Juvenile Fiction | Action & Adventure
JUV012020 - Juvenile Fiction | Fairy Tales & Folklore | Country & Ethnic - General
JUV022000 - Juvenile Fiction | Legends, Myths, & Fables | General
JUV039150 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Special Needs
JUV039120 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Prejudice & Racism
JUV016040 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | Europe
JUV013070 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Siblings
JUV033020 - Juvenile Fiction | Religious | Jewish
Library of Congress categories

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