Sometimes shifting gears and reading a book written for children is refreshing. Instead of trying to guess what twist is going to be thrown, I just get to enjoy reading the book at it’s own pace, letting it unfold as it will, knowing the wild ideas that I think could happen won’t, because it’s a book for children.
Extraordinary Birds is the debut novel of Sandy Stark-McGinnis. It follows the life of December Lee Morgan, an 11-year-old orphan whose bounced from foster home to foster home. But December has a secret, one that makes it hard to settle in to any one home: she’s really a bird in a human’s body. December knows everything about birds, so she knows with a certainty that she is one, she’s even got a scar on her back where one day her wings will break through. That knowledge makes it hard to settle in, but that’s all right for December, because all she wants is for her wings to break through so she can fly away.
But then she gets placed with Eleanor, the Bird Whisperer. At first, December is skeptical. She learns what taxidermy is–Eleanore’s hobby–and December is worried she might end up stuffed on display if Eleanor finds out what she really is. But after a while, and with the help of her new friend Cheryllyn, December starts to reevaluate her understanding of home and belonging. Maybe, just maybe, she can start to trust Eleanore, and set aside the past she’s been running from. Maybe, just maybe, December doesn’t have to fly away.
Extraordinary Birds is a sweet story of a young girl growing into herself. Stark-McGinnis deals with some really difficult stuff in appropriate ways for her target age range–abandonment, bullying, and even transgender issues. Stark-McGinnis handles them deftly, allowing readers to infer the depth of the issues without going into great detail.
Readers, young and old, will be rooting for December, rooting for her to find her home, and to find herself along the way. I think a lot of readers will be able to relate with December in various ways, whether her experiences or her vivid imagination.
Stark-McGinnis writes a relatable character who will accomplish one of two things: young kids will see themselves represented in the story or young kids will be learn to sympathize with their peers, getting a snapshot into what life might be like for someone they know. All in all, a great debut novel. I look forward to seeing what else Stark-McGinnis creates.