Book Review: Nest

Nest, by Esther Erlich

[Note: This book was provided for free by Random House Children’s Press in exchange for an honest review.]

Although this book is technically a children’s book, it is clearly and obviously a children’s book written by adults for children rather than a book written by children for children. To be sure, few young people write books about children for themselves, but when they do there is a stark difference between those books and this one [1]. A book written by a child shows witty references to the books that he or she has read, along with a certain earnestness and sincerity. This book, on the other hand, is filled by lengthy descriptions, a pervasive sense of irony, and the same sort of pandering that one sees in this book from Miss Gallagher, acting as if she understands children better than they know themselves. As a result, this book just feels somewhat artificial, and never fully draws you into the world the author has described.

That is not to say that this book is without its charms, however. The novel itself has as its protagonist a bookish and somewhat tough but sensitive girl named Naomi and nicknamed Chirp who loves birdwatching in Cape Cod, comes from a non-religious Jewish family that is still very culturally Jewish (as this book’s constant Yiddish quotes indicate), and who has a flirtatious friendship with a neighbor who like her has some older siblings that are bad influences. In the case of Chirp, the bad influence is a teenage sister named Rachel who smokes and is a bit too wild with boys. In the case of the family, the innocence of youth is shattered when her mother gets MS and has a mental breakdown and ends up in a private mental hospital, leaving her father (a psychiatrist with the name of Dr. Orenstein) overwhelmed with work and life and the two girls to basically raise themselves, although the book focuses far more on Naomi and her awkward friendship with Joey (her neighbor who, like her, is looking to escape from his own family situation, so naturally they escape together).

Among the more notable qualities in this particular novel is that the author focuses on children in unpleasant or dangerous situations, which seems to be de rigeur for books I read about children [2]. Of particular note is the fact that this author makes several references to the children’s novels of Frances Burnett [3], who clearly seems to be an inspiration for the author’s attempts to write classic children’s literature. This book is one where bad things happen to children and they have to deal with difficult circumstances, a common theme when it comes to children’s literature. Unfortunately, this book does not quite rise to the level of A Little Princess or The Adventures of Hayden and Nikki largely because one never feels as if one is inside the sixth grader Naomi, but one always feels outside of her, with dialogue that is a little stilted and large amounts of superfluous description, so that even gestures like the author’s reference to some clam strips that symbolize the friendship between the two of them does not pierce the veil of separation between the reading audience and the authentic children who might exist, and be somewhat like the author herself, underneath what appears to be very much like a retrospective semi-autobiographical novel written long after the fact.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

[3] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Book Review: Nest

  1. Pingback: Non-Book Review: Syren’s Song | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book And Audiobook Review: Sit-In | Edge Induced Cohesion

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