Song of the Mockingbird: My Journey with Josefina

Published in 2015; author Emma Carlson Berne; illustrators Julie Kolesova and Michael Dwornik, one image credited to qingwa/iStock/Thinkstock

"My Journey" books

These are choose-your-own adventure books written from a first person perspective. Just for ease, I'm going to always pick the first option when I come them, but I'll try to mention the other possible endings. Since the reader is meant to insert herself into the story, the main character (a modern-day pre-teen) isn't named. Since it would sound to weird to me to summarize the story as, "and then (Historical Characters) and I saw a..." I've been using the author's first name as the main character's name. However, this book mentions that the main character's nickname is Birdy.


Birdy is Not Happy. Her family just moved from Chicago to Santa Fe, and she desperately misses her old home. Trying to snap Birdy out of her funk, her dad takes her on a walk in the high desert. Birdy finds an ancient bird-shaped flute, which her father suggests she hold onto until they can have a museum examine it. Later in her room, Birdy idly plays a song she heard a mockingbird sing, and suddenly she finds herself outside, but her house is gone. In its place is a house of a much older style. The paved roads are gone, and instead of seeing her neighbors' dogs, she sees a herd of goats. Birdy decides she's dreaming. She's further convinced of this when a girl comes out of the house and speaks to her in Spanish, but Birdy (who took a bit of Spanish lessons a year ago) understands her perfectly--and can respond in Spanish just as easily. The girl introduces herself as Josefina Montoya, and chalks up Birdy's confusion to a blow to the head; she has a bruise and dust there. Josefina takes Birdy inside her home for some chamomile tea, which should help her feel better. Josefina insists that Birdy rest, and unrolls a sheepskin sleeping mat for her. Birdy obediently lays down, but once she's alone, she plays the mockingbird tune on the flute: back to the present, where no time has passed.

First choice: stay in the present or go back to Josefina's time? Well, I'm not falling for that again, not after Caroline's journey. Peaking ahead, staying in the present ends the book with Birdy feeling grateful for her family and realizing that home is where the heart is. So back in time it is, then.

Not long after returning to the past, Birdy is called to lunch with Josefina's family. They inquire about how to reunite Birdy with her family, and her unsure and cryptic responses lead them to conclude she's a cautiva--stolen from her home by an enemy tribe and now escaped. Josefina's father makes plans to inquire about families whose daughters were taken (probably long ago, from how confused Birdy seems about her family) and sends a servant to scout the area for signs of Birdy's captors. When the servant gives the all-clear. Josefina suggests she take Birdy around the property to show her some of their daily life in hopes of jogging her memory (they've concluded Birdy's family is Spanish like theirs, rather than any native tribe).

Next choice: collect squash from the garden or explore the nearby hills

While harvesting the squashes, Josefina tells Birdy about her life on the rancho. It sounds mostly happy, but when Birdy asks about Josefina's mother, Josefina explains that her mother died two years ago, and although she has much to be grateful for, she misses her mother terribly. Josefina remarks that Birdy has lost something dear as well, meaning her whole family, but Birdy thinks of how she misses her friends and home in Chicago. Josefina continues, saying that the two of them have been brought together by destiny: they've both lost things that they can't bring back (Birdy's old home/what Josefina thinks is part of her childhood with her family) but they have found a friend in each other. Back at the rancho, Birdy enjoys watching the Josefina and her sisters banter as they prepare the squash. Soon it's dinnertime, and after they eat, Josefina and her sisters reminisce about their mother. They mention the beautiful altar cloth she embroidered, and the memory book their Tia Dolores is helping them write. Josefina asks Birdy if she'd like to see one of them.

Next choice: see the memory book or the altar cloth

Josefina and her sisters share their precious memories with Birdy, the songs she sang and things she taught them written down so they can't be forgotten. One blank page has an ink stain, and Josefina suggests Birdy draw her home, if she can remember it. Birdy draws her old apartment building, set in the Chicago skyline. But she's not used to using ink and quill, so the drawing isn't as clear as the picture in her mind. It's just as well, because Josefina is able to see it as a rancho rather than a modern city. Josefina's father announces that he'll go to Santa Fe in the morning. Josefina and Birdy can go with him to inquire about lost girls, or they can stay at the rancho to prepare for the harvest festival.

Next choice: stay at the rancho or go to Santa Fe

Josefina wakes Birdy early the next morning for chores. After a while, Tia Dolores mentions she has some things for Tia Magdalena. The girls can go there or to Sr. Sanchez's for another errand.

Next choice: Tia Magdalena or Sr. Sanchez

At Tia Magdalena's home, Birdy is able to let out some of her bottled up emotions, feeling much better after a cathartic cry. She realizes she's been throwing herself a pity party, and resolves to give Santa Fe an actual chance to feel like home. After some time, the girls head back to the rancho for the party.

Next choice: at the party, to get some food or dance

As Birdy takes in the gaiety around her, she realizes she's happy and content. She doesn't need Chicago to be happy; she needs the people she cares about and who care about her. It's time to go home. She tells Josefina that she now knows she can get back to her family. Josefina doesn't really understand, but she trusts her friend. The girls part ways, Birdy feeling ready to embrace her new home.

About Josefina's Time

When this story takes place, New Mexico had only recently opened up a trade route with the United States (it still belonged to Mexico). Santa Fe was a bustling trade city, not only for the descendants of Spanish settlers and the Americans, but native tribes.


Dedicated to "my dad--with whom I've shared many adventures."

Birdy's move from Chicago meant she had to give her part as the lead in Annie. I would feel terrible if I had to do that to one of my kids. There's no mention of why the move was made at the time it was. I assume a job opened up, but I'd be very tempted to try to stay long enough to let my kid be the lead in a play if it were at all possible.

There's a line about Birdy not having known that New Mexico was in the US, and that's a surprisingly common misconception even among adults. Some adults also don't realize that Hawaii and Alaska are part of the US, or the territories like Puerto Rico.

But at the same time, while I know plenty of adults have the same "There's a New Mexico?" reaction, I don't quite get why "chiles" and "tortillas" and "tamales" are italicized as if they're totally alien concepts. Birdy's from Chicago in 2015. Chicago has lots of restaurants with lots of styles of food.

The flute is engraved with a name, Maria. Josefina and her sisters assume that's Birdy's name, and she doesn't correct them.

Although Birdy doesn't seem to be very religious (she's caught off guard by some of Josefina's actions, like saying grace before a meal), she finds some value in spirituality.

Some of the endings are online-only. So, these aren't good books to take anywhere without an internet connection.

Some other possible endings: seeing the altar cloth and how the family worked together to preserve the memory and hard work of their mother makes Josefina realize that her family is loving and supportive whether they're in Chicago or Santa Fe; going to Santa Fe can end in a side trip to Josefina's grandparents' home, which reinforces the value of family and helps Birdy see Santa Fe as her new home, and embrace the opportunities it presents; or it can lead Birdy to a bustling trading center, showing her that Santa Fe is every bit as lively as Chicago and also reminding her of how much she loves her family (when someone wants to trade for her flute); Santa Fe can also be where Josefina sees one of her friends which leads Birdy to embrace the friendship a girl at her school has been offering; seeing how making friends with Josefina didn't lessen the friendships she made in Chicago encourages Birdy to reach out to a girl at her new school; an expedition into the surrounding hills can lead to an encounter with a mountain lion which results in the baby goat Sombrita being injured and healed by Tia Magadalena, which prompts Birdy to trust her parents that Santa Fe will be a good thing for their family, just as Josefina trusts her elders; or the mountain lion encounter can be resolved with a few well-aimed rocks that Josefina throws and the adventure as a whole instills an appreciation for the beauty of the high desert which Birdy carries with her when she returns home; a couple other storylines also help Birdy remember that her family is her priority; or that making new friends and enjoying new experiences doesn't mean the old friends and experiences are worthless.

No comments: