Black Dove, White Raven – Elizabeth Wein

black dove white ravenTeo and Em are children of a female pilot and wing walker team, traveling the US after WWI as performers in air shows.  When Delia is killed, Rhoda raises Teo as her own.  So brother and sister, black and white, are unconventionally but lovingly raised by Rhoda.  It was Delia’s dream to raise her son in Ethiopia, the country of her late husband.  A place where she thought her son could be free from discrimination.  Intent on fulfilling Delia’s dream, Rhoda travels to Ethiopia and carves out a life working at a clinic and serving as pilot.  She sends for Teo and Em and that is when the story deepens to include the rising tensions between an Italy governed by Mussolini and fiercely independent Ethiopia.

The author conveys a deep understanding of Ethiopia, its history and culture.  While the story is embellished with enhancing detail of the landscape and natural beauty of Ethiopia, I needed photos to go with the mental imagery.  After reading the book, I found photos and read summaries of Ethiopian history.  I should have paused reading when the characters arrived in Ethiopia and did a bit of research then.  Despite the author’s brilliant explanation of events, I needed the background knowledge prior to reading.  I am not certain of the target audience.  While I appreciated the enlightenment regarding the historical elements, how many teens will gravitate toward this book?  The book is most definitely a worthwhile read and I hope it garners an audience.  It would make for a great adjunct reading to enhance any unit on WWI, WWII, or Ethiopia.  Well told historical fiction, as this book is, is one of the best ways to bring history alive and add meaning to past events.  I am left with another layer of knowledge regarding WWII and a newly found interest in Ethiopia.

eGalley review             Publication date 03.31.15

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