Today, we’re hosting a stop on the official blog tour for Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose, a novel in verse about the unlikely friendship between a young girl in the Roanoke tribe and an English girl, freshly arrived to settle the New World in 1587. We’re delighted to have Caroline here to chat with us about the book. Thanks for stopping by, Caroline!
Communication is an important part of BLUE BIRDS. In many ways, communication has changed drastically over the years — especially with today’s technology — but in a lot of ways, it has stayed the same. What are some of the common threads between communication now and in 1587?
I think face-to-face communication will always been the most effective and perhaps the most meaningful. Tone and expression are a huge part of the communication process. While tone can be read on paper and sometimes the screen (“sometimes” because email and texts are so quick we can miss or leave out context), facial expressions are only part of face-to-face encounters.
In BLUE BIRDS, Alis and Kimi speak different languages, so body language is a very important part of their communication.
As strange as it sounds, verse has become my default. I find it a really in-the-moment way to write historical fiction. It’s immediate, spare, and lets us into a character’s inner life very quickly.
For this book in particular, verse also became a wonderful way to tell a story in two voices. Readers move quickly from Kimi to Alis and back again. And when the girls share a poem, I was able through line and stanza placement to “speak” their story visually, adding one more layer of communication. Verse is magical that way!
Despite their many differences, what are some things that Alis and Kimi have in common? What do you think strengthens their bond?
Both girls are curious and lonely. Both have lost family members and have uncles they are missing in some way. Kimi satisfies Alis’s need to understand her surroundings. Alis brings back the joy Kimi’s lost since her sister died.
In your research for BLUE BIRDS, were you surprised by anything you learned? How did that influence the final book?
So much surprised me. The things that happened those five summer weeks in 1587 and later when Governor John White returned to Roanoke in 1590, they seem impossible, like some sort of Greek tragedy. It was important the confusion, fear, heartache, and downright strangeness feel present in the story. I hope I’ve accomplished that.
As a history teacher and an author, do you have a favorite period of time to read about and study?
I love anything that feels personal, where I can learn about individual lives. I just finished WOLF HALL, a novel about Henry VIII. After watching the recent “Marco Polo” Netflix series, I’m dying to finally crack open a gorgeous copy of THE BOOK OF MARCO POLO, THE VENETIAN that once belonged to my grandmother.
I don’t know. Prince Humperdinck?
Pen or pencil?
A pencil for drafting picture books. A pen for crosswords. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter.
Favorite piece of clothing?
My red coat.
Song you can’t get out of your head right now?
Blondie’s “The Tide is High”
Most recent vacation?
A summer road trip to Texas and Louisiana.
5 things that are always in your purse
Chapstick, driver’s license, credit card, spare key. That’s pretty much it.
Here’s more about Blue Birds (in stores now):
It’s 1587 and twelve-year-old Alis has made the long journey with her parents from England to help settle the New World, the land christened Virginia in honor of the Queen. And Alis couldn’t be happier. While the streets of London were crowded and dirty, this new land, with its trees and birds and sky, calls to Alis. Here she feels free. But the land, the island Roanoke, is also inhabited by the Roanoke tribe and tensions between them and the English are running high, soon turning deadly.
Amid the strife, Alis meets and befriends Kimi, a Roanoke girl about her age. Though the two don’t even speak the same language, these girls form a special bond as close as sisters, willing to risk everything for the other. Finally, Alis must make an impossible choice when her family resolves to leave the island and bloodshed behind.
A beautiful, tender story of friendship and the meaning of family, Caroline Starr Rose delivers another historical gem.