Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Extraordinary Birds

Stark-McGinnis, Sandy. Extraordinary Birds
April 30th 2019 by Bloomsbury
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

December is removed from yet another foster home because of her insistence of climbing trees, jumping from them, and getting injured. She does this because she thinks she is really a bird, and she needs to practice flying. This delusion has its roots in the fact that her mother left her a bird identification book when she walked out, and December thinks the scars on her back are where her wings will develop. Adrian, her social worker, decides to place December with Eleanor, an older woman who works at an animal sanctuary where birds are often rehabilitated. Eleanor is different from other foster parents and doesn't give December a hard time about only wanting to eat seeds, and tells her she must let her know if she goes outside to be in trees, although it's okay if she needs to. December settles in to her new school fairly well, making friends with Cheryllyn, who has recently transitioned from being Charlie, earning the wrath of mean girl Jenny. When Jenny takes December's "autobiography", a notebook in which she has detailed her history as a bird and her journey towards the full realization of that, Cheryllyn tries to get the book back, cementing the girls' relationship. December finds out that Eleanor does taxidermy, and for a while fears that she will be killed and stuffed herself, but drops this after Eleanor introduces her to a bird being rehabbed. Settling in is rocky, but eventually December decides she would like to stay with Eleanor, only to find that Eleanor has to move out of the house she rents, and December fears she will not be part of the move. She is, and Eleanor is able to help December understand her beginnings and move past them.
Strengths: Eleanor was a very understanding foster parent, and the depiction of the system is positive. The theme of birds is worked convincingly throughout the book. It's very well written and engaging.
Weaknesses: December a danger to herself and others, and her state of mind does not receive adequate concern. Not only does she injure herself on several occasions, she injures Eleanor. She truly believes she is a bird, and her delusions are not really dealt with. I would be afraid that children who don't know much about foster care would think children who are in the system are like December, which isn't helpful.
What I really think: Debating. Foster care is the hot new topic, and while it can be helpful to see this in fiction, I want to be careful about the depiction of the children. I prefer Lewis' Scarlet Ibis (also bird themed), Winget's A Million Ways Home, Booth's Kinda Like Brothers,  Jensen and Morrison's Every Shiny Thing, Davis' Peas and Carrots, Galante's Strays like Us, or Carter's Forever, Or a Long, Long Time.

No comments:

Post a Comment