The Children’s Book Review | May 2, 2019
Written by Sandy Stark-McGinnis
Age Range: 8-12 years
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books (April 30, 2019)
What to expect: Hope, Family, Trust, Healing
December Lee Morgan is an eleven-year-old girl with a terrible scar from her past. She loves birds and dreams of the day that wings will unfold from the scar on her back, allowing her to fly away and survive on her own without any memories of her human life. Until then, she is resigned to constantly moving from one foster family to another and never having a true sense of belonging. She spends her days climbing trees and jumping out of them, alarming her foster parents, eating sunflower seeds, and obsessively reading The Complete Guide to Birds: Volume One, which was a gift from her mom, and Bird Girl, a journal of her life story. She deems it dangerous to become emotionally close to anyone, so she keeps to herself.
Things begin to change for December when she is placed into the care of Eleanor Thomas, a bird-lover, taxidermist, and animal rehabilitation specialist who has a painful past of her own. Eleanor gives December freedom to be herself, and also gives her the opportunity to train an injured red-tailed hawk named Henrietta. As December bonds with Henrietta and Eleanor, she discovers a new sense of purpose and experiences an intense desire to stay with a foster parent for the first time ever. Just when December begins to rely on Eleanor’s promise to always be there for her, a misunderstanding threatens to unravel the trust that has developed between them. Ultimately, December learns that the path to healing is not flying away from the past, but finding people who love and accept you and will always give you a safe place to call home.
Sandy Stark-McGinnis uses beautifully lyrical prose to make this tender story sing like the extraordinary birds that she describes throughout her unique debut novel. She addresses difficult topics like identity and abandonment with sensitivity that makes the story entirely approachable for middle-grade readers. December is an unforgettable character, and young readers will take away the same hope-filled conclusion that she does: though our scars may always be with us, they are only a part of our story.
About the Author
Sandy Stark-McGinnis is a debut author and award-winning poet whose work has appeared in Quercus Review, In the Grove, and Penumbra. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Sandy lives with her husband and children in California, where she works as a fifth grade teacher.
www.sandystarkmcginnis.com | @McGinnisSandy
Extraordinary Birds, by Sandy Stark-McGinnis, was reviewed by Amy Aiken. Discover more books like Extraordinary Birds by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with Birds, Family, Foster Care, Hope, and Middle Grade Books.