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Extraordinary Birds

Extraordinary Birds

Book - 2019
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Eleven-year-old December knows everything about birds, and everything about getting kicked out of foster homes. All she has of her mom is the bird guide she left behind, and a message: "In flight is where you'll find me." December believes she's truly a bird, just waiting for the day she transforms.
Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019
ISBN: 9781547601004
Call Number: jF STAR
Characteristics: 214 p. ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

This touching, hopeful debut novel about a bird-obsessed orphan girl just might make you cry.

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Jun 24, 2019

Have you ever read a book that was just so weird, yet so captivating? That's what reading Extraordinary Birds was like for me. It's the story of girl who believes she is metamorphosing into a bird, and it's just so wonderful and strange.

December is a fascinating main character and her desire to be a bird who can fly away is intriguing throughout. Given this book looks at foster care, it's fitting that December has an obsession with birds and flight, and throughout the story you see so many attempts of her trying to find the perfect tree in order to practice flight. This is also a book about trying to find a home when you've never truly had one, and I think being in December's mind for a lot of this story allows the reader to empathize with her need for transformation. She wants someone to want her, to love her, and to need her. It's really heartbreaking.

I also really adored Eleanor, her foster mother. Eleanor is a taxidermist, she's sharp a whip, and I love the way in which she allows December to come into her own and build trust. Eleanor is always caring and empathetic -- she wants to see December flourish and doesn't judge her desire for flight or being insecure. It's really a beautiful relationship to read about! Even the friendships that December forges are just really thoughtful, and I think the author does a great job of portraying issues such as anxiety and even bullying in the story.

The more I read, the more I really believed that December was transforming into the bird. Stark-McGinnis has a style of writing that is so inviting and enticing that it's so easy to fall into. Extraordinary Birds is an emotional read that will fill the reader with so much hope. It's a wonderful look into what it's like being a child in foster care, while also trying to find your own wings to take flight, and finding the courage to transform into who you truly want to be.

Apr 16, 2019

This is a lovely book. It is a first person narrative of December, a girl who was abandoned by her mother and then placed in a series of foster homes, leaving each of her own volition. In the time of the story, she is placed with a new foster parent. December clings to a nonfiction book about birds as the only thing left that her mother gave her. She is also writing her story in a journal. Interestingly, she believes that she is a bird, dormant and waiting to manifest with each life-threatening leap from a tall tree. The new foster mother also has a connection with birds, both as an animal rescue worker and as a taxidermist, so December fears that she will end up stuffed herself. And she does, although not with stuffing but a something much more important. I cried all the way through the last third of the book, which I couldn't put down I was that attached to the characters and their experiences.

Another interesting point of the story is the portrayal of a transgender girl and the way that she defies the bullying of the other children at school. Never does the author explicitly state that the character is transgender, but the portrayal gently leads the reader to understand this.

An amazing middle age novel that will be enjoyed and cherished by any age reader.


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I watch Eleanor lay a blanket in the middle of the living room floor, where we'll eat dinner. She ladles soup into each of our bowls. Funny, maybe I don't know everything about her yet, but I feel like I've known her all my life. In all the foster homes I've lived, deep down I was really waiting for the houses to turn into my home, but they never did. They were more like nests, there to give me shelter until I needed to fly. (p 204)

US is a word like MOM. I know what it means. I know how to use it in a sentence. But it's a strange word. It's like when I'm standing on the ground, watching a bird soar in the sky. I know flight is out there, but there's a distance. Just like with US. There's gap between the word and me. (p 164)


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