Living in Coppertown is like living on the moon. Everything is bare-there are no trees, no birds, no signs of nature at all. And while Jack loves his town, he hates the dangerous mines that have ruined the land with years of pollution. When the miners go on strike and the mines are forced to close, Jack’s life-long wish comes true: the land has the chance to heal.
But not everyone in town is happy about the change. Without the mines, Jack’s dad is out of work and the family might have to leave Coppertown. Just when new life begins to creep back into town, Jack might lose his friends, his home, and everything he’s ever known.
Dulemba paints a vivid picture of life in Appalachia in this beautiful story about a boy looking for new beginnings while struggling to hold on to the things he loves most.
A Bird on Water Street tells the story about a mining town in Coppertown, which is reminiscent of a similar town that is found in the Appalachian enclave between Tennessee and Georgia. Taking place from the perspective of Jack Hicks, a teenager, beginning in 1986.
Jack, who for better or worse leads us through everyday life and emotions of a teenager; especially one that is experiencing a bit of turmoil due to his surroundings. He asks himself questions that even I find myself wondering, such as “Where do I want to go?”, “What do I want to do?”, and the biggest one of all, “Who am I?” such as the question of what kind of person to become, and what path to take.
While this book is great for middle grades (and maybe advanced elementary readers), I do want to add that it is filled with themes that may be “dark” in the eyes of younger readers, as it deals with themes related to poverty, teen pregnancy, unions, and issues that younger readers may not have learned about prior to reading.
One important thing to note is that in Coppertown there are no trees, no plants, no bugs, no birds. He comes from a family full of men who worked at the local mine, and due to this, it is expected that he will do the same. But like most teens, Jack wants something different for his life.
Although Jack is a strong focus in this story, we see how he (as well as the town) are changed by the closing of company where many, including his own family are employed. His friendship with Prian is illustrated very well, and I was great to see a “light” so to speak in a story that can be rather dark (I won’t give any spoilers, but it’s not all bad!)
Overall, this book was very good. I love how history is incorporated and if you have already learned about unionization and topics related to it and employment, you get a better understanding of the emotions that Jack and others are going through in this story.