The story of four kids who form an alternative Scout troop that shakes up their sleepy Florida town.
When three very different girls find a mysterious invitation to a lavish mansion, the promise of adventure and mischief is too intriguing to pass up.
Ofelia Castillo (a budding journalist), Aster Douglas (a bookish foodie), and Cat Garcia (a rule-abiding birdwatcher) meet the kid behind the invite, Lane DiSanti, and it isn't love at first sight. But they soon bond over a shared mission to get the Floras, their local Scouts, to ditch an outdated tradition. In their quest for justice, independence, and an unforgettable summer, the girls form their own troop and find something they didn't know they needed: sisterhood.
Celia C. Pérez is the author of The First Rule of Punk, a 2018 Pura Belpré Author Honor Book. Celia is a longtime maker of zines inspired by her love of punk music and writing. Originally from Miami, Florida, Celia lives in Chicago with her family where she works as a community college librarian.
This is not a saccharine tale of growing up and finding friendship. This is a story about a group of girls discovering they can be their unique, individual selves while supporting one another and fighting against injustice. As I was reading, I kept thinking of middle readers who would love this book when it’s out in September. I hope we get to see some of these characters again in another story — I’d love to know what happens to them as they get older!
There’s a lot going on in this novel, but it is well-written enough that it allows a varied audience to relate to different characters and aspects of their lives.
Cat, a member of the Floras, a Scouts-type organization, is increasingly dismayed by the centerpiece the group uses for their organization—a vintage hat decorated with feathers from the old plume-hunting days, when the mania for feathered hats wiped out some species of birds and critically endangered many more. She’s an avid birdwatcher who hopes to inspire others to care about birds as well, and she feels that using the product of such an ugly history is the wrong symbol for a modern-day group.
Cat meets three other girls, all who feel like misfits, all from diverse backgrounds, and they decide to form their own little group. First on the agenda: getting that hat out of the Miss Flora contest.
The leader of the Floras was a well-written character who is so believable in her stubbornness. To her, the idea of children engaging in activism about something she doesn’t find important is ludicrous. If you’ve ever been a kid who’s tried to get close-minded adults to care, you’ll recognize her!
This is the second juvenile novel I’ve read recently starring a young birdwatcher who refuses to eat birds. True, I wish Cat would have extended her compassion to pigs and other animals, but she’s still taking a fantastic step—in fact, the most impactful one—by choosing not to eat chickens and turkeys. As for the other three lead characters, there is promise that the feathered hat activism will help them grow in awareness for other issues, as well. (At the beginning of their friendship, Aster admits she’s never thought of birds at all except when she’s cooking them.) There’s a great conversation regarding the bad choices of the past, and how we don’t have to continue on that path once we realize how harmful those actions are.
The book doesn’t end on a neat and tidy note, which is unusual for a juvenile novel, but far more realistic to life. Readers are given the opportunity to reflect on how the girls’ experience shaped each of them and where the story may go in the future.
I’m bummed that this sweet, engaging, and diverse adventure has mostly been overlooked in my library. I’ll definitely be recommending it to patrons looking for junior novels with girl main characters.
“...even though history is in the past, and we can’t do anything about what happened then, we can try to make it right today.” Four lonely girls are drawn together by activism and form a club of their own. Lane is an artistic girl living with her wealthy grandmother while her parents finalize their divorce abroad. Aster, an accomplished chef, has been homeschooled by her grandfather her whole life, but is headed to middle school in the fall. Cat is a bird lover who quits a local club the Floras in protest over a feathered hat without telling her mother. Ofelia is an aspiring journalist whose Cuban American parents are overprotective. Each girl uses her unique talents to contribute to a campaign to end an outdated tradition via guerilla-style activism. At turns hilarious, thought-provoking and inspiring, this book is can’t-miss middle grade gold. The girls do NOT get along at first and therein is the real heart of this book. They are a diverse group in terms of race (Lane is white, Ofelia and Cat are Cuban American and Aster is Bahamian), heritage and economics. Readers will love the acerbic and witty conversations, as well as the honest look at how true change happens. Must-buy for all libraries! Includes the girls’ club handbook (recipe, DIY instructions, birding tips and more).
A sweet story about four girls, each with her own challenge, who bond over a common cause, become activists, break a bunch of rules, and learn some lessons. Each of the characters had her special interest: bird watching, art and crystals, baking, writing. In the back of the book, Pérez included tips for each of these hobbies. I especially enjoyed the writing tips, and I can't wait until book club because someone is baking the Chips and Chips cookies from the recipe!!
Unexpectedly the day I stopped in a big-box-bookstore to pick up some Mad Libs and ask if this was available, an ARC came my way via punk post. Hooray for punks with stamps!!
I *really* loved The First Rule of Punk, and had pretty high hopes for this. Suffice to say I was not disappointed. In some ways it's very different, with super different characters. At the same time, the high energy and well-intentioned trouble-making of the O^3 is reminiscent of Celia's first book.
I'm not going to say too much more, but I'm super psyched to get a final copy when it comes out for the actual middle-grades humyns in my life.
So first off, parents, please convince your children to read this gem of a book. Actually, parents should read this one too. As a parent I know this is a book I want to keep on my shelf for later years, as I suspect it could be the perfect remedy for any child going through a period of self doubt. Right from the beginning we’re introduced to some diverse, strong girls who are all going through varying levels of self discovery. They all have different backgrounds and home lives, allowing opportunities for discussions over how all families can be different. Often the four girls, Lane, Ofelia, Cat and Aster, speak openly about their experiences and are open minded in listening to their new friends. Their open minded and justice seeking personalities alone set a great example for kids of all ages, and can even serve as a great reminder to adults.
While the story gets off to a bit of a slow start, I quickly became invested in what was happening with Lane, Ofelia, Cat and Aster. Each of the girls have such bright personalities and seeing them come together in, what is at first awkward, friendship is truly heart warming. The girls themselves are well written, but I also found the content of the story and the writing itself to be extremely well done and appropriate for its intended target audience. Strange Birds is a book that has a lot of learning opportunities, rolled into something fun so it will actually keep a young persons attention. Things like standing up for what is right and how certain situations can affect people differently. There’s a nice balance of seriousness and humor, and a great since of adventure throughout.
Overall, I really loved this book. It has a fun story (one that I think fans of the LumberJanes series would really enjoy) and sets a good example for kids everywhere. It’s diverse, powerful and an althogether timely story, that I believe could inspire a whole new generation of kids. It highly recommend going out and snagging yourself a copy of this beautiful story.
4 out of 5 stars.
Many thanks to Penguin Random House for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I really wish I could give this book a 3.5. But I am going to leave it at a 3, because it does have its flaws.
Here's the thing. NO story is new. We have been telling them since storytelling began, just changing the details to fit the time and place. And this is a typical elementary/middle school story about 4 girls, each with their own interests and quirks who are all misfits, form a club, find a cause, and in the end triumph. It's updated to 2020 with a carefully selected ethnic balance, but the basic story line is the same old same old.
Since this is 2020, there is a pointed discussions of racism, of "the other side of the tracks," or in this case, an invisible "wall," and a wealthy white girl is made aware of aspects of her privilege that she has taken for granted. Naturally, a grandfather turns out to be someone once active in the 60s civil rights movement, so he can give an inspiring lecture on that to his granddaughter. It can be a little bit too didactic. The purposefulness is not quite at Berenstain level--there's a story here--but it lurks just below the surface.
Yet there are some nice twists too, including the wealthy girl's grandmother being willing to look at the past and see what is there. And for those who in 2020 scream about "wiping out history" in the form of statues and names there is this rejoinder: "...even though history is in the past, and we can't do anything about what happened then, we can try to make it right today....Shed light on the dark parts of it instead of pretend it didn't happen."
This is not about Confederate statues, but about the use of feathers on hats, but that line might make this thoughtful reading to adults. Kids who read it may not take it as deeply without some guidance, but they will still enjoy this story, and Perez's starter guide in the back to the four girls' hobbies may lead readers to new interests.
~~' Even though history is in the past and we can't do anything about what happened then we can try to make it right today '~~
■ This book Strange birds ~ A guide to ruffling feathers is a fast-paced and well written read
■It is a story of friendship. I Loved it ...
When three very different girls find a mysterious invitation to a lavish mansion, they are so curious so they accept it . Ofelia the storyteller , Aster the foodie , Cat the bird watcher meet the kid behind the invite Lane DiSanti and they don't like each other on first sight....But soon they are on a mission that the readers will surely enjoy..
●I just loved every girl in this story. They value their friendship more than anything...
●This story mainly concentrates on the fact that many people are killing birds for their feathers . I just liked this book .
●This story has a lot of good values to teach kids .
《》Young readers from age 9 and up will loved this book 《》
I liked the diversity of perspectives in this unlikely and ambitious friendship story, as well as the book's themes. It's a good introduction to activism and some of the deeper issues surrounding it -- especially how it's easier for those with "privilege" to be activists in some cases because they will not be punished as harshly -- for middle schoolers. Cool how each girl had her own unique passions, too, that the author clearly did her research on rather than just slapping a stock interest on each of them.
Read for work, but also fits my Year of Expanded Reading definition of reading books by non-White or non-American authors, as Perez is of Mexican and Cuban descent.
This was a really enjoyable middle grade story about a group of girls coming together to become friends and stick up for a cause they believed in. I loved how all four of the girls were so unique and had very distinct perspectives. The theme of not continuing to celebrate or use items that are tied to harmful parts of history was a useful message to see in a book aimed at younger readers. They make the point that they can be displayed in a museum for their historical significance without keeping them in use.
At times I did feel like the girls read a bit older than the age they were supposed to be. I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as Celia C. Pérez’s The First Rule of Punk. But overall I thought it was a sweet book full of friendship and activism.
I received an ARC copy of this book from Edelweiss
Loved this! Each girl was so fun and unique and I liked that they were all very different people but still got along [after awhile at least] and helped each other out when it was really important. Basically a cute middle grade novel about a group of misfits coming together and learning that it's okay to be different while having a very interesting adventure along the way. If you liked The First Rule of Punk I think you will definitely like this too.
This middle grade book featured strong female characters. I appreciated how the ending wasn't as obvious as I expected. There were a couple big things that didn't get cleared up that annoyed me- I wonder if the author was leaving an opening for a sequel. The characters were also a little too cookie cutter. Each had something specific they were very, very passionate about- that's a pet peeve of mine. Overall, I liked this book and would recommend for middle grade audiences.
In STRANGE BIRDS, Pérez paints a fierce and vivid portrait of four very different girls who band together to rebel and create change (and cause a little mayhem) over the course of a summer. Ofelia, Aster, Cat, and Lane are so sharply written that they shimmer off the page, and Pérez's prose is at turns bold, comic, and inspirational. Sure to ruffle feathers and spark activism against injustice!
This would be the perfect start of summer story. Four friends, one mission. It's a summer to remember when Lane, Cat, Aster and Ofelia start a club. Give this to fans of stories about girls who become friends, want to make a difference in their world, or who have adventures (without adults!). Or those who like stories set during those long days of summer.
Richie’s Picks: STRANGE BIRDS: A FIELD GUIDE TO RUFFLING FEATHERS by Celia C. Pérez, Kokila, September 2019, 384p., ISBN: 978-0-425-29043-9
“Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends Mm, get high with a little help from my friends Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends” — Lennon/McCartney (1967)
“As they stood together, Lane felt a spark of excitement, as if the tree house was charged with electricity. But something was still missing. ‘We need a dead body,’ Lane announced. ‘A what?’ Cat turned from the drawing to face Lane with a worried look. Lane laughed at her reaction. ‘Like in that old movie where the four boys go on an adventure to see this body,’ Lane said. ‘We need a mission too. A goal.’ ‘But not a real dead body,’ Cat said. ‘Right?’ ‘A metaphorical dead body,’ Aster offered. ‘Exactly,’ Lane said.”
Reading STRANGE BIRDS, and observing the bonds that grow between four tween girls over the course of a summer, makes me wish that guys were wired a little more like girls. As a youngster, despite having friendships and participating in groups, I never experienced anything that compared to what develops here between Lane, Aster, Cat, and Ofelia.
STRANGE BIRDS is set in a small town near Miami, Florida, and features a multicultural cast. Lane is spending the summer with her wealthy grandmother while her parents pursue their divorce. She instigates her own group after resisting her grandmother’s urging her to participate in The Floras, a local girl’s organization--part Scouts and part beauty pageant--that Lane’s ancestors founded a century earlier. Lane nevertheless delves into the Floras handbook, hoping to discover and employ strategies that make for a fun and cohesive group. For populating her group, she invites Ofelia, the daughter of a woman employed by her grandmother, and then leaves the rest to chance, anonymously stashing two invites in the public library.
Aster, who lives with her grandfather, is a young chef. At the end of the summer, she’ll be entering the local middle school after being homeschooled to this point. Ofelia is an aspiring journalist seeking autonomy. Cat is a bird lover and environmentalist. Lane is an artist. Together, they come to focus their attention on an issue that has recently led to Cat leaving the Floras.
There is a lot to contemplate and debate here, regarding the girls’ choices of tactics in their quest to make change. At one point, Aster asks her professor grandfather about his past experiences as a young activist. He responds:
“‘One of the most challenging things about being an activist and really caring about things and wanting to see them change,’ her grandfather started, ‘is accepting that change rarely comes as quickly as we’d like and as quickly as it should. But that doesn’t mean we give up the fight. Sometimes the fight changes, takes a different appearance, but we keep at it.’ Aster bit into her cookie and waited for her grandfather to continue. ‘That said’--her grandfather looked at her seriously—’you also have to understand that the consequences for everyone in a group aren’t always the same. Or fair. Taking a stand is riskier for some.’ ‘What do you mean?’ Aster asked. ‘Well, for example,’ he said, ‘in our group there were white kids and Black kids. All protesting the same thing. But if you have money and other privileges, like being white is a privilege, it’s easier to get out of trouble than if you’re poor and not white.’ Aster thought about her own group of friends and how the consequences might be different for each of them. She knew she didn’t have the money or the influence of a DiSanti. All she had on her side was what was right and true. ‘So, you think it’s important to fight for what you believe in even if it means getting in trouble,’ Aster said, looking her grandpa in the eye. ‘Sometimes it just can’t be helped,’ her grandfather said. ‘Sometimes the desire for change is bigger than anything else. It has to be.’”
For a nearly 400-page-long book, this was a surprisingly quick, compulsive read. The four characters are distinctive and well-drawn. There is mystery, comedy, hold-your-breath moments of tension, a treehouse, and a noisy rooster that sits in a tree and poops on cars. There are also allusions to FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES that will hopefully spur some readers to check out that classic.
STRANGE BIRDS is an enjoyable read for 8 to 12 year olds. It’ll be a good one for sharing between friends--or potential friends.
For Ofelia Castillo, summer in Sabal Palms, Florida means writing and submitting a winning story to the Qwerty Sholes Journalism Contest. Winners get to spend a week in NYC at journalism camp. All she has to do is find a great story and convince her overly-protective parents to sign the application form.
For Lane DiSanti, summer in Sabal Palms, Florida means living on her grandmother's estate while her parents get divorced, avoiding their phone calls, and not doing any of the things that her grandmother suggests, including joining The Floras, a local scout-type troop for girls under the leadership of Mrs. McAllister. But after reading her grandmother's old copy of The Floras: A Handbook for Sabal Palms Girls, Lane knows exactly how she wants to spend the summer.
For Aster Douglas, summer in Sabal Palms, Florida means helping her grandfather, Sabal Palms University's first Black professor, with research for his family history book about the earliest Bahamian Douglas settlers in Sabal Palms, and cooking new recipes and old favorites for him, while her mother is deployed in Japan.
For Catarina 'Cat' Garcia, summer in Sabal Palms, Florida means Floras meeting, working on the Floras' summer volunteer project, participating in the Floras Centennial and competing be to named Miss Floras, something Cat couldn't care less about but she knows her mother desperately wants it. But Cat would rather spend her summer birdwatching an listening to their song.
But summer suddenly changes when Ofelia, Aster, and Cat receive mysterious invitations to meet at the tree house on the DiSanti estate. After reading The Floras handbook, Lane has decided to begin her own (secret) troop with three girls she doesn't know and who don't know each other, and call it The Ostentation of Others and Outsiders. At first, the girls don't get along very well, and yet, the group does begin to jell once they have a mission. And that mission is to get the Floras to stop using its official hat, adorned with the decorative feathers from endangered birds, and worn by the girl who wins the Miss Floras competition at summer's end. Needless to say, adventures ensue.
Pérez has brought together four diverse girls, each with her own particular talent that lends to the story perfectly, given them a goal and set them free from the lonely, boring summer they thought they would be having. As the girls get to know each other, readers see how their friendship and camaraderie evolves; at first, despite their different personalities, and then, because of them, as they learn to work together to accomplish their mission.
Themes that are explored in Strange Birds are collective power, kids making a difference, animal rights, statue quo and systemic racism, and dealing with casual acceptance past wrongs and how "ruffling feathers" can bring attention and possible solutions to them.
Pérez has created such believable characters that I felt like I really knew them. The story, though well-written, does get off to a somewhat slow start, but once the girls come together that really changes and the book becomes a real page turner.
Fun back matter consists of The Ostentation of Others and Outsiders, A Handbook that consists of Cat's Tips for Beginning Birders, Lane's Crystals for Everyday Use, Aster's Chips + Chips Cookies (which sound delicious), and Ofelia's Guide to Writing What You See, and instructions for DYI Badges (after all, if you're going to have a troop, secret or otherwise, you need badges).
Strange Birds is a book that is sure to become a favorite, and I can't recommend it highly enough.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+ This book was sent to me by the publisher, Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House
Strange Birds draws the reader in like a fast-paced adventure through chapters from each of four girls' perspectives, instantly setting up the challenges in their lives: their families, their expectations, and their worries, fears, and greatest wishes. Each girl is different: Ofelia, the only child of fiercely overprotective Cuban-American parents, determined to be a journalist; Lane, a white artistic girl from London, wounded by her parents' impending divorce and living with her wealthy grandmother for the summer; Aster, an innovative cook and homeschooler educated by her grandfather, a local Bahamian scholar; and Cat, a budding ornithologist who rebels against the stuffy scout troop her mother forces her to be part of. All four come together for a larger purpose, and while their forms of protest create much of the story, their evolving friendships are as big a part of it and just as dramatic and powerful. I admired the well-drawn villain—Mrs. McAllister, who is chillingly real in her refusal to accept defeat or anything but her own purpose and her scout troop's disturbing legacy—the vividly different parents, and magnificent characterization of the girls themselves. This is a book defined by its characters, its point, its beautiful language, and its clever storytelling. It's a book for all kids, packed with layers, impossible to put down, and a lot of fun to read.
4.5⭐️ A rewarding novel of young activism, friendship, and community, Strange Birds introduces us to a quirky quartet of girls who become unexpected friends over one summer in their small Florida town.
Inspired by the traditional, longstanding Scouting group for girls in Sabal Palms, Lane DiSanti decides to create her own group while spending the summer staying with her grandmother. Lane is kind of surprised when three girls show up for the first meeting at her treehouse. Friendship and adventure follows!
Perez succeeds in creating four characters who are well defined, differentiated, and complex. The four shifting perspectives could easily be confusing or dissatisfying in the hands of a less accomplished writer.
I appreciated how the author introduced and developed topics that kids should be exposed to - activism, intersectionality, privilege, racism - with sensitivity and a necessary directness.
This would make an ideal summer bookclub pick for this age.
CW: racism, animal cruelty, death of a parent, divorce
The book "Strange Birds"is a awesome but very sweet story and is one of the best books I have ever read.One thing I really enjoy is the characters and their personality and not just that the twist and turns go on making you think ahead but then throwing you off making the reader want to read more and I've read books that have different perspectives but none quite like this making the story on FOUR PERSPECTIVES!!!! their stories background and interest everything is different can you believe that.Anyway I got too carried away there but the four main characters are Cat the bird watcher, Aster the foodie and no she does not eat a lot she cooks,Lane the artist,and Ofelia the writer.What I think the theme is that old saying Teamwork makes the dreamwork because these four girl all work to complete their "dead body" I mean Mission. I really recommend this book to people who just love reading about suspenseful and funny stories.
This is just the kind of book that I would have loved when I was younger -- misfit kids creating a secret society and supporting each other despite different life experiences. Their friendship felt genuine and I know students who would fall in love with this story. That being said, the story does feel a little slow-moving at times, and I would have loved even more character development since I liked the characters so much. The First Rule of Punk has difficulty circulating in my library (even though I love it and talk about it whenever I can), but I think this one will find just the right reader.
I became a fan of Perez's after reading The First Rule of Punk. Plus, she's a librarian that lives in Chicago. Strange Birds was definitely cute, but it didn't quite have the same charm as her first one did for me.
I loved the group of girls - their diversity, interests, and activism made for a fun summer adventure. I love that each girl had a hobby, which was shared in their handbook in the back of the book. I'm always a sucker for a great librarian character - so obviously loved Ms. Falco. I just think it was a little too long. The girls are age 12 - I'd give to 4th grade and up.
Four very different girls meet one summer, in a small town in Sabel Palms Florida, and are drawn together over a believe that once you identify an environmental problem you need to figure out a way to make a difference. They band together and in the process become allies and friends. They do not always understand each other and the different problems they are facing in their personal lives but they eventually learn to trust each other.
Four girls in a small Florida town come together when they find an invite to a secret treehouse club on Lane's grandmother's property. Friendships bloom as they share their hardships and dreams with each other, blossoming into adventure and activism when Cat brings up her concerns about the local scout group, the Floras-- and how they celebrate a hundred year old hat made with the feathers of endangered birds. I adore all four of these girls, who come from different home environments and different motivations. Strange Birds is bound to empower and inspire middle grade readers and beyond.
A sweet story about four new friends with different backgrounds coming together one summer. Before long, they start to take part in an activist cause they believe in. It’s not necessarily a moral story as the girls have lots of fun getting to know each other and causing #goodtrouble, but the message and the way it’s handled is solid.
Pérez does such a great job writing about interesting, young female characters with passion. An entertaining read (and listen) that brings together a diverse group of girls in a fun, yet important story of standing up for what you believe.
Certainly an author that I will continue to pick up as she writes more.
A wonderful story about friendship and how four girls come to understand what they value and understand about each other. Did you know millions of birds were killed for the plumed hats that ladies loved in the early 20th century? I loved learning more about that piece of history in this book. Also, the girls in the story have their eyes opened to the racial and class discrepancies in their own group and in their wider community. An intelligent book aimed at middle school readers, but that I recommend to anyone who loves a good story well told.
A great beginner's exploration of activism, racism, and animal rights ❤ I wish she had gone a bit deeper into those topics, but I also think this would be a great book to read with upper elementary schoolers as a conversation starter.