Monday, February 22, 2021

Review: On the Way to Birdland by Frank Morelli

 Happy Monday! I'm starting off the week with a book, which runs in a slightly different direction than most I present here on Bookworm for Kids. This one is for young adults and not only touches upon the world of Jazz music but slides into the direction of philosophy and the deep thoughts of a teenager in a journey, which has him learning more about the world around him, others, and himself. It's deep and leaves food for thought.

But I'm going to zip my lip now, and just let you read further yourself!

by Frank Morelli
Fish Out of Water Books
Young Adult Contemporary
300 pages

Self-proclaimed teenage philosopher Cordell Wheaton lives in a sleepy, southern town where nothing ever happens; not since his hero, jazz musician John Coltrane, left some seventy years earlier to “follow the sound.” Cordy’s life has been unraveling since the night his father and his brother, Travis, exploded on each other. The night Travis’s addiction transformed him from budding musician into something entirely different. The night Travis took his saxophone and disappeared. When Cordy’s father falls ill, the sixteen-year-old vows to reunite the Wheaton family. He embarks on a modern-day odyssey with forty bucks in his pocket and a dream to find his brother and convince him to be Travis again—by taking him to a show at Birdland Jazz Club in New York City, and reminding him of the common bonds they share with their legendary hero. Cordy’s journey is soon haunted by ghostly visions, traumatic dreams, and disembodied voices that echo through his mind. He starts to wonder if the voices are those of the fates, guiding him toward his destiny—or if he’s losing his grip on reality. 



                                          * gets very close and personal with the main character
                                          * packed with emotion and heart
                                          * deep characters, in general
                                          * journey of self-discovery and growth


Digging deep into the soul and emotions of the main character, this book takes a journey which leads to more than might be first expected.

Cordell's life has been unsettled since his brother, Travis, left him and his father alone. Cordell isn't sure how to regain balance, and his father isn't exactly helpful in the matter. But one thing is for sure, Cordell has not lost is love for music. When his father falls ill and everything in Cordell's life seems to unravel, he decides it's time to bring Travis back. But that's not an easy task, especially when Cordell doesn't have much backing to start with. When he does find Travis, he, of course, doesn't want to return. But the struggle to convince his brother to come back isn't the only problem Cordell faces, he's beginning to wonder if he himself might be slipping into a bad place.

This is not the type of read I usually dive into, but I do love taking a jaunt into new directions, at times. This book is deep and digs into all sorts of questions about family, purpose, and finding ones place in life...and with themselves. I did appreciate that this one centers around Jazz, a very original direction especially for this age group. It also addresses some very tough family circumstances, something many teens have to deal with in some form or another. There is a lot readers can sympathize with, and it does open them up for thought.

The writing style is a very, personal one, which allows the reader not only to accompany Cordell on his journey, but has him almost speaking to the reader directly and allowing them to know his exact thoughts and feelings the entire way through. Despite this very up-close approach, the author doesn't allow the other characters to fall by the wayside but gives them depth and purpose. Most are more than intriguing to meet and leave their own impact.

Readers who love to dig deeper into the world around them, thought process, discovering more to life or simply enjoy tons of character depth are going to appreciate this one quite a bit. 

And here he is...

Frank Morelli is the author of the young adult novel, No Sad Songs (2018), a 2019 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers nominee and winner of an American Fiction Award for best coming of age story. His fiction and essays have appeared in numerous publications including The Saturday Evening Post, Cobalt Review, Philadelphia Stories, Boog City and Jersey Devil Press. You can connect with him on Twitter @frankmoewriter or on his author site ( 

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