This week’s Biblioshelf Musings is Black Flamingo by Dean Atta.
I heard so many amazing things about this book and when I heard that it was a novel in verse form, I knew I definitely had to read it!
Book: Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
Publication Date: 8th August 2019
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
This is not about being ready, it’s not even about being fierce, or fearless, IT’S ABOUT BEING FREE.
Michael waits in the stage wings, wearing a pink wig, pink fluffy coat and black heels.
One more step will see him illuminated by spotlight.
He has been on a journey of bravery to get here, and he is almost ready to show himself to the world in bold colours …
Can he emerge as The Black Flamingo?
The Black Flamingo is such a fantastic book. I’m a teeny-weeny bit obsessed with flamingos so I found the title itself incredibly intriguing – I just can’t believe it took me this long to actually get around to reading it! The verse structure was one of my favourite things about this book and is (in part) one of the contributing factors to its uniqueness. It really emphasised the poetic nature of Atta’s writing and complimented the pieces of poetry, written by the character Michael, which were dotted throughout parts of the story. Those poems really helped to express Mikey’s raw feelings and added a more private perspective of his character’s inner mindset – almost like a stream of consciousness. The illustrations also made it a brilliantly immersive read.
The coming of age element and transformation of the Michael’s character as he goes through the different stages in his life was poignantly written. His journey is fraught with obstacles and questions which he asks himself – mistakes he makes, stereotypes others put on him before he can really find out who he truly is and where he belongs. This raised awareness of many themes including race, poverty, lgbtqia+ and all of the chaos that comes with surviving high school, university and entering the real world.
The drag show towards the end of the story and Mikey’s transformation into the black flamingo is a real ‘butterfly coming out the cocoon’ moment. It has a real celebratory feel and the pride of the main character just leaps off he page as Mikey owns the stage with his feathers. The Fierce poem was a particular highlight as it speaks to everyone and is so relevant to all people regardless of their gender/racial status – we all want to be that little bit fiercer just like the idols he writes about in his poem. Incorporated into Mikey’s show was a whole host of real-world people and influencers who have contributed to the lgbtqia+ movement and the attention and awareness raised here was such a touching tribute.
I really enjoyed how Black Flamingo felt autobiographical but still retained the magic of fiction and poetry combined. It reminded me of a fantastic stage musical I once saw called Everyone’s Talkin’ About Jamie – the songs were so catchy and the whole storyline was incredibly uplifting.
Overall I loved everything about this book. From the message it conveys to the way it has been and all of the high heels, stardust and feathers in between – the Black Flamingo really is one multi-faceted gem of a read!