The Ever-After Bird is a historical fiction book about slavery and the Underground Railroad. It is written in the first person from the perspective of a 13-year-old orphan girl, Ce-ce who accompanies her ornithologist and medical doctor uncle on a trip to the south to look for the "Ever-After bird," or scarlet ibis, and help the slaves they encounter find freedom. The book concludes with an interesting Author's Note explaining how the book came to be and a bibliography.
In this coming-of-age story, Ce-ce, her uncle, and a former slave assistant provide an interesting and educational look at slavery. Though aimed at the ten and above age bracket, the book refers to a variety of mature topics: menstruation, voodoo, adultery, rape, abuse, neglect, suicide, tarot cards, nakedness, the breeding of slaves, and a slave mother killing her infants to spare them the fated life ahead. God's name is taken in vain several times, though without the usual "damn" and with a lowercase "g". The word "damn" is used once. There are three horrible examples of cruelty, including a whipping, a medical experiment, and a runaway slave wearing a heavy iron contraption on his head.
More disturbing to me are the nuances of Ce-ce's thoughts as she explores the issues of anger, fear, power, control, abuse, manipulation, and cruelty. These emotions can easily slip and slide around and become off-balance or turn into something else. Under the pretense of being a slave owner, Ce-ce is surprised to find she actually enjoys the feeling of power that her cruel actions afford her. I also came away with an uncomfortable feeling of sexual tension between Ce-ce and her uncle. She is both attracted to him and afraid of him, and she vies for his attention by using her newly found charms.
The Ever-After Bird is thoughtfully written. The characters are palpable and believable. This provocative view of slavery would best be read by older teens, and wise parents will want to participate in the reading and discuss the mature content with them.