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Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Family, Friendship, Middle Grade Readers

EXTRAORDINARY BIRDS by Sandy Stark-McGinnis

December Lee Morgan is eleven years old.  She has been placed in numerous foster homes over the past three years. December is convinced that the scars on her back are from where her wings once existed–and where they will break free from her human body again, returning her to her rightful form as a bird.  When we first meet December she is, in fact, trying to practice flying by jumping from a tree.  This escapade leads directly to December being moved to yet another foster home.

December is placed with Eleanor–whom the townspeople refer to as the Bird Whisperer. Initially distrustful of Eleanor, December remains committed to the story she has been writing of her life–the one in which she reverts to bird form and flies away, free.  Eleanor’s patience and steady hand–as well as her work with a special bird at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center–begin to give December hope that she may be able to have a home as a human girl after all.  At school December meets Cheryllynn, another girl trying very hard to define who she is despite what others may think or say about her and finds in her an unexpected friend.

Extraordinary Birds is a sweet, loving story about a young girl’s long journey to accept her past and not allow it to define who she becomes. December’s voice is earnest and open.  The metaphor of birds is used constantly throughout the story in an extremely effective way.  Both December’s and Eleanor’s knowledge of birds provides a common language through which to communicate. Extraordinary Birds shows the reader, in a very tangible way, that life can hold pain, and loss and fear simultaneously with joy and laughter and a sense of belonging.  It is a heartfelt story that doesn’t feel like it’s manipulating the reader’s emotions. It was definitely a 4 out of 5 stars read for me.

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