Red Bird Danced

by Dawn Quigley (Author)

Reading Level: 6th − 7th Grade

With lyrical verse and powerful emotion, Dawn Quigley (Ojibwe) tells the story of urban Native kids who find strength in connection with those who came before and in the hope that lets them take flight.

Ariel and Tomah have lived in the city's intertribal housing complex all their lives. But for both of them, this Dagwaagin (Autumn) season is different than any before.

From his bench outside the front door of his building, Tomah watches his community move around him. He is better at making people laugh than he is at schoolwork, but often it feels like his neighbor Ariel is the only one who really sees him, even in her sadness. Ariel has always danced ballet because of her Auntie Bineshiinh and loves the way dance makes her feet hover above the ground like a bird. But ever since Auntie went missing, Ariel's dancing doesn't feel like flying.

As the seasons change and the cold of winter gives way to spring's promise, Ariel and Tomah begin to change too as they learn to share the rhythms and stories they carry within themselves.

This first middle grade novel by Dawn Quigley is a tour de force. She is known for her American Indian Youth Literature Award-winning Jo Jo Makoons chapter book series and young adult novel Apple in the Middle. Give Red Bird Danced to readers who love Jasmine Warga and Christine Day!

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Kirkus Reviews

A captivating, exquisitely penned story of hope and survival.

Publishers Weekly

Employing elegant verse, Ojibwe author Quigley (the Jo Jo series) crafts a story of two Ojibwe kids learning to cope with sorrowful life events. Eleven-year-old Ariel loves to dance ballet; it's something she has in common with her beloved aunt Bineshiinh. But when Bineshiinh disappears, ballet doesn't feel the same. Trying to find comfort in movement again, Ariel practices traditional Indigenous jingle dancing and, in delving into its history, learns that Native women are "ten times more likely to/ be murdered." Meanwhile, Ariel's 12-year-old neighbor Tomah uses humor to hide the fact that he struggles to read. Despite his academic insecurities, he discovers that he is a gifted storyteller and uses his talent to call attention to the disappearances of women in his Turtle Mountain community. Through Ariel and Tomah's steadfast resolve, this heartbreaking yet heartening story tackles themes of grief and the strength it takes to grow through adversity. Even as the tweens confront personal challenges, they remain committed to bettering their surroundings in a moving narrative that highlights issues relating to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis while celebrating the healing power of art--including dance, folklore, music, and poetry--and the solace one can find in connecting with one's heritage. Ages 8-12. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. (June)

Copyright 2024 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

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Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
June 04, 2024
BISAC categories
JUV031020 - Juvenile Fiction | Performing Arts | Dance
JUV039070 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Homelessness & Poverty
JUV023000 - Juvenile Fiction | Lifestyles | City & Town Life
JUV039020 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Adolescence
JUV011040 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - Native American
Library of Congress categories

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