Strange Birds: a Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers

I really enjoyed Celia Pérez’s First Rule of Punk, and a Scout-flavored book seemed right up my alley. It took me a couple years longer than I’d planned to get to it, but I’m glad I did!

Strange Birds by Celia C. Pérez

Strange Birds:
a Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers
by Celia C. Pérez.

Kokila, 2019.

ISBN 978-0425290439.

Read from library copy.

Four very different girls unite in what starts out as a secret club just to have friends and grows into action for a cause. Cuban American Ofelia Castillo dreams of being a journalist, and is lobbying her parents to send her to a summer journalism course in New York.  Aster Douglas lives with her grandfather, one of the first Black professors at the local university, while her mother is deployed overseas.  She practices cooking from Julie Child and is nervous about going into seventh grade at the local middle school after being homeschooled most of her life.  Cat Garcia is the youngest of four sisters, under pressure from her mother to enter the Miss Floras competition that’s the culmination of years of effort in this Scout-type group.   Finally, Lane DiSanti is spending the summer with her wealthy grandmother while her parents are on two different continents getting a divorce.  Her grandmother would also like her to join the Floras, but Lane is interested in modern street art, not old traditions.  Still, she decides to put out secret invitations to form a secret Scout troop of her own.  

Everything is awkward and uncomfortable when they first meet, but soon the new group bonds over a plan to stop the use of the historical hat with real endangered bird feathers used by the Floras in their ceremony.  Shenanigans ensue, with all the girls learning that both friendship and activism are more important and more difficult than they had thought.  

With chapters told from alternating points of view, we really get to know all the girls and their concerns well – great both for character readers like me, and for kids of different backgrounds to find characters they can see themselves in, including brief discussions of how the characters are treated differently depending on their skin color. The small-town Florida atmosphere is so vividly painted I could almost feel the humidity. A “handbook” at the end includes an activity based on each of the girl’s major interests – how to be a journalist, sew your own badge, start bird-watching, and bake Aster’s famous chocolate chip-chip cookies.  Highly recommended!  

About Katy K.

I'm a librarian and book worm who believes that children and adults deserve great books to read.
This entry was posted in Middle Grade, Print, Realistic, Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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