December is used to moving in and out of foster homes and schools, with almost no constants in her life. It's a good thing she knows that she's really a bird, awaiting transformation, so those human connections wouldn't serve her well anyway. But when she starts to find herself liking her new foster mother and making a friend, what will become of all her plans for flight? Just like the birds she loves, December is slightly otherworldly and mysterious, but also like them, getting to know her is worth it to uncover the delicate and poetic beauty beneath her surface. Extraordinary Birds covers topics that could easily veer into heavy-handed moralizing, but instead Stark-McGinnis has given us simple stories of complex people and allowed the reader to make connections and come to conclusions on their own. A quiet but powerful debut from an author to watch.— From Sarah
“Sandy Stark-McGinnis brilliantly and passionately writes about 11-year-old December’sreluctant and courageous struggle from heartbreaking disappointment to trust. After bouncing around from one unhappy foster home to another, December has found her own way to cope with the rejection and pain of a devastating childhood. McGinnis writes a sensitive story about family, trust, bullying, mental health, and identity in a way that middle-grade kids can empathize with. I’m sure this novel will find its way into many classrooms and into the hearts of readers everywhere.”
— Sara Ornelas, Blue Baboon Books, Wichita, KS
For fans of The Thing About Jellyfish, Counting by 7s, and Fish in a Tree, a heartbreaking and hopeful debut novel about a unique young girl on a journey to find home.
Eleven-year-old December knows everything about birds, and everything about getting kicked out of foster homes. All she has of her mother is the book she left behind, The Complete Guide to Birds: Volume One, and a message: "In flight is where you'll find me." December believes she's truly a bird, just waiting for the day she transforms and flies away to her real home. The scar on her back must be where her wings have started to blossom -– she just needs to find the right tree and practice her flying. She has no choice; it's the only story that makes sense.
When she's placed with Eleanor, a new foster mom who runs a taxidermy business and volunteers at a wildlife rescue, December begins to see herself and what home means in a new light. But the story she tells herself about her past is what's kept December going this long, and she doesn't know if she can let it go... even if changing her story might mean that she can finally find a place where she belongs.
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.
“Stark-McGinnis' prose is carefully crafted, direct, and convincing… appealingly hopeful.” —Kirkus Reviews
“An amazing debut -- filled with heart, lyrical prose, and a heroine who soars!” —Jewell Parker Rhodes, New York Times bestselling author of Ghost Boys
“This soulful story will wing its way straight into your heart.” —Jess Keating, zoologist and author of the My Life is a Zoo series
“Such a tender story. You'll root for this bird-loving girl to soar.” —Sally Pla, award-winning author of The Someday Birds
“"An emotional tale about finding one's home and facing one's truth...An extraordinary debut!" ” —Ellie Terry, author of Forget Me Not