The Good Lord Bird Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Good Lord Bird

This story follows a boy named Onion who is a slave who is freed by John Brown, the abolitionist and his wild experiences serving in Brown's army. Onion is a slave and works in his father's barbershop. One day while he is working, John Brown the abolitionist, stops in and starts an attack. John Brown's goal is to free all slaves and in the midst of his liberation movement, Onion's father is killed. John Brown takes Onion with him and thinks that he is girl. Onion travels the Midwest with John Brown engaging in many battles. Onion is given a bonnet and dress to wear, which Brown had bought for his daughter back home in New York. In the beginning of Onion's travels with John Brown he vows everyday to try and escape. However, his plan fails to work out at first.
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When Onion finally manages to make his break for it, he winds up in Kansas which is slave territory and working at a whorehouse. The problem is that Onion is a boy and has no intention on selling 'tail' in any form or fashion. He befriends a prostitute named Pie and once she discovers his dilemma she agrees to help Onion convince the Madame of the home to let him earn his keep by picking up around the house. This situation works for a while until Onion develops romantic feelings for Pie and just when he can't stand being around her anymore, Old John Brown sends his son into town to rescue Onion.

Since John Brown last saw Onion, the boy has grown and picked up a liking for the taste of liquor. This last fact bothers John Brown who is deeply religious but decides to take Onion back under his wing after instructing him to read the bible which is something Brown does often. Brown is devoted to the Lord and even misses some opportunities to win battles because of his long drawn out prayers. Over the years, Onion becomes Brown's favorite and the man takes good care of Onion. When the time comes for their last battle to end slavery in Harper's Ferry, after much struggle, it appears that things can work out for their army but Onion makes a mistake that will cost the people he loves most.
Best part of story, including ending: I loved this story because it really brought John Brown to life. In addition to lots of great action, this book was hysterical! I found myself laughing out loud a lot.

Best scene in story: My favorite scene was when Onion tries to tell John Brown that he is a boy and not a girl. It is a hysterical scene because so much is going on. Plenty of the men have their guns drawn and there is even shooting, but little Onion is more concerned about straightening Old Man Brown out him being a boy, not a girl.

Opinion about the main character: I liked Onion's spunk. Onion was a smart boy who really cared about people. Although he was liberated by Brown, Onion had to worry about slave catchers which caused loads of anxiety for him. But even still, Onion considered the fate of others. He was so compassionate about John Brown and his children who grew to be his friends.

The review of this Book prepared by Literary Doll a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

Chapter Analysis of The Good Lord Bird

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   upbeat Time/era of story    -   1600-1899 Political/social activism    -   Yes Plotlet:    -   slavery Ethnic/Regional/Religion    -   Black people in America/Europe Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book War/Revolt/Disaster on civilians    -   Yes Ethnic/regional/gender life    -   Yes Conflict:    -   War, Civil

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   slave Age:    -   a teen Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Black (American)


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   8 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Northeast    -   Midwest Misc setting    -   fort/military installation

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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James McBride Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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