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A Bird in the House

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A Bird in The House is a collection of eight books narrated by Vanessa Macleod, a twelve year old girl living in Manawaka, Manitoba. As Vanessa tells her story we learn about other people in her family and in her life. Her mother, father and brother are mentioned, also her Grandparents. She also discusses her Grandmothers and spends a lot of time remembering her Grandfather Conner, a domineering figure who had a strong control over his family. Vanessa has a love of writing, which helps her escape from the pressures of her life. The reader learns about the people in her life and the other family members and the people of the town. Two of these people, Harvey Shinwell and Piquette Tonnerre have had terrible lives. Vanessa discusses her relationship with Harvey and Piquette and how she is involved with them.

Harvey Shinwell, the sixteen year old paper boy of the Connors is also the neighborhood bully of Manawaka. It seems that Harvey has inherited this penchant for violence and abuse. Over a period of months, Harvey throws pepper in the face of Vanessa's dog's eyes, hit him with a stone using a slingshot, and burned him with match. This becomes apparent when Vanessa and her Grandfather go to retrieve the telescope Harvey had stolen from their yard. Here they see the poverty to which Harvey is subjected in the poorest part of town. Furthermore they learn that,

being abandoned by his parents that he has been raised by his aunt Ada, a rundown women who answers the door in dirty clothes rather than asking questions she merely says " Alright you, here is it" (158). Then she hits him in the face with a wooden spoon. Obviously, with Ada Shinwell as his only adult model, Harvey grows up to be a cold -hearted young man. Soon after, that incident Harvey quits school, and about a year later he is arrested for robbing his employer friend, Yang Min whom he has beaten. He went to jail for six years and Vanessa never sees him again. Harvey obviously has a terrible life one full of neglect and abuse. Because his aunt does not love or nurture him, he reacts by lashing out at helpless animals and eventually hurting helpless people. Such is the inheritance of Harvey Shinwell from his only living relative.

Piquette Tonnerre, the girl whom Vanessa's father tries to help is also subjected to a life of poverty considered a bunch of half-breeds, by the Anglo Canadians of Manawaka, her family works only at odd jobs at town and are often at in relief. Piquette is also in Vanessa's class at school but is two years older; she has failed several grades possibly due to the fact she is often not in school. She has tuberculosis of the bone and limps noticeably. Vanessa is always slightly embarrassed by Piquette and is hesitant around her because Piquette is of angry demeanor. When Vanessa runs into Piquette four years later, she sees her desperation to be accepted into mainstream



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