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Extraordinary Birds
Sandy Stark-McGinnis
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Extraordinary Birds

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  326 ratings  ·  113 reviews
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.

December believes she is a bird. The scar on her back is where her wings will sprout, and one day soon, she will soar away. It will not matter that she has no permanent home. Her destiny is in the sky.

But then
Paperback, 272 pages
Expected publication: April 28th 2020 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published April 30th 2019)
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Average rating 4.25  · 
Rating details
 ·  326 ratings  ·  113 reviews

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Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, netgalley
The only thing December trusts is her story. One day the scar on her back will open up and she’ll sprout wings. She’s a bird waiting for the moment she’ll transform, and then she’ll be able to fly into her future. But when she’s kicked out of yet another foster home and placed with Eleanor, a taxidermist and animal sanctuary volunteer, December begins to rethink everything she believes about her past and what her future could look like.

Some authors are able to tap into a voice so pow
Kelly (Diva Booknerd)
Someday December will spread her wings and take flight, feeling the aching scar between her shoulder blades where her wings will bloom as she escapes her human life. Vaguely remembering her biological mother, December is reminded of her abandonment by a kindergarten photograph of her mother inscribed with in flight is where you'll find me and a reference guide to birds. December endures the ache of being displaced within the foster system until she can learn to fly, searching on her journey to f ...more
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
December is a struggling 11 year old girl growing up in the foster care system, with no real understanding of family or having a home. Because of all the trauma she’s experienced, her way of coping is believing in an imaginary world where she is a bird waiting for her wings.
December’s story is a heartbreaking one and feels almost too real. My heart went out to her and it made me think of how hard it must be to trust anyone after you’ve lived her childhood of bouncing from one home to the next.
Michele Knott
So many emotions in this book - getting to know December was an honor.
Full of universal themes such as hope and determination, this is a debut that will make you remember this author's name!
Celia McMahon
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the e-arc.

This heartfelt story follows 11 yo December as she navigates life while being bounced from foster home to foster home. To help herself through the abandonment of her mother, she starts a journal in which she imagines herself as a bird. Well, she more than believes it, she thinks she IS a bird. Her imagination covers up the scars of her past, but ironically, keeps her planted where she is because she doesn't trust easily and plans to fly away b
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever retreated into fantasy when it felt easier to face than reality?

That's exactly the coping mechanism at the heart of Sandy Stark-McGinnis's unique and moving debut novel, EXTRAORDINARY BIRDS. Eleven-year-old December knows, deep down, that she's truly a bird—and as soon as her wings sprout, she'll be able to fly away from foster care and the painful events that landed her there. The last thing she expects is that the very system she wants so badly to escape might just be
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, kids
Full of longing and hope, EXTRAORDINARY BIRDS tells the story of 11yo December, who believes she is a bird. She feels the absence of her mother keenly, believing her left-behind bird book and the message “In flight is where you’ll find me” are the keys to finding her place in the world. December moves from one foster home to another, waiting for the day her wings will sprout. When she’s placed with taxidermist/wildlife rescuer Eleanor, December’s vision of the future wavers for the first time. I ...more
Kristin Crouch
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to the author for sharing a copy for review to Collabookation.
December has been shuffled through foster homes as long as she can remember. Her only memories of her mother are sporadic and unintelligible. Growing up, December has found an interest in birds and flying that sustains her through her tribulations.
As I read, my mind kept going into teacher mode: I wanted to pull snippets to teach unreliable narrator. At times, the bird discussion and analogies got to be overwhelming t
Oliver Clarke
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My main literary loves are crime and horror, but I do try and read outside of those genres as often as I can. 'Extraordinary Birds' was just such a read. It's a charming, moving, coming of age tale, about a damaged young girl, December, who believes she is a bird.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I found it to be a gripping, deeply engaging read. It's a book for children, but doesn't soft-pedal or condescend and I think adults would find just as much to like in it as kids. December is a w
Eleven-year-old December has landed in her umpteenth foster home with bird lover and taxidermist Eleanor, certainly not a person to trust. Eleanor might see that December is really a bird, lure her and eventually stuff her. Meeting December in a tree, ready to jump to see if her wings will emerge from the scar on her back so she could fly away took me into a child's hopes hard to imagine. For such a young person to have experienced the trauma she had is heartbreaking. Sandy Stark-McGinnis shows ...more
This middle grade novel tells the story of an eleven year old girl who has spent the last several years in and out of foster homes. When we meet December, she’s jumping out of a tree. Readers learn that December, in order to cope with her traumatic past, believes that she is really a bird. She believes that one day her wings, which are hidden underneath a gruesome scar on her back, will unfold and she’ll be able to fly away from everything.

December is placed with Eleanor, who runs a
Interest Level: 3-6

Imagine you are a foster kid that goes from house to house because no one takes the time to understand you? Now imagine that the reason no one understands you is because you are actually a bird in human form just waiting for your wings and feathers to emerge? This is eleven-year-old December. Her mom left her when she was very young and she has been in and out of foster homes ever since. She is obsessed with birds so much that she has the book The complete Guide to
Ms. Yingling
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 Decembe
December thinks she is a bird. She knows one day her wings will sprout from the scar on her back and she will fly away. Until then she has to practice by eating seeds and jumping from trees. Her new foster mom Eleanor is different from the others. She doesn't make December eat other food and she lets her help with the birds at the bird sanctuary. December's mom left when she was little, but left December a book on birds and the story of December becoming a bird. As December settles in with Elean ...more
This was a lovely, moving, quiet book. I enjoyed December as a character and I think kids will like her as well. She is tough, she is fragile, and she is sure that she is going to become a bird again. She has a scar on her back where she knows her wings will reemerge as soon as she can make herself ready for flight. With this in mind, she eats little, practices her jumps from trees, and learns everything she can about birds. As she travels from foster home to foster home, she doesn't need much, ...more
Pam  Page
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book made me think more than any other book I have read in a long time. I continually wondered how I feel about kids reading about a girl who tries to solve her problems by thinking she is a bird and continually trying to fly out of trees. That is the reason I did not give this book 5 stars; it just felt odd to me that there was not more of a concern for a girl who continually hurt herself jumping out of trees. On the flip side, I liked the way bullying was handled (even though hard to read ...more
Imagene Wonders
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
December believes she is a bird. One day, she will grow wings out of the scar in her back and fly. It doesn't matter that she is an orphan and keeps switching from foster home to foster home, because her home is in the sky. Her closest secret is her book, "bird girl- an extraordinary tale". But one day, she meets foster mom and bird lover Eleanor, and sits in her garden every day watching the birds. But, on top of the stress of being an orphan, she has to go to school.

I like this book because I
Rati Mehrotra
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sweet heart-warming book about a girl who thinks she is a bird and is just waiting to grow wings. My favorite parts were definitely all the ornithology facts woven into the story.
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
EXTRAORDINARY BIRDS is a gorgeously written story of heartbreak and resilience, told from the perspective of a brave, bird-loving 11-year-old foster child named December. Strong supporting characters - including December's loving foster mother, Eleanor, and her sparkling new classmate, Cheryllyn - add life and dimension to Sandy Stark-McGinnis' transcendent MG novel. A glorious debut!
Mike Down
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Extraordinary Birds is a sad story about a young girl who has clearly had a traumatic start to life, but it is also a story of hope and about learning how to trust again.

In Extraordinary Birds, we meet December, a young girl who knows everything there is to know about birds. She also knows everything about being kicked out of foster homes. Being moved from foster family to foster family with no-one yet able to understand her and help her.

All that she has of her birth mum
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"You want to read next?" Eleanor sips hot chocolate from a teacup.

This is my animated image


Another ARC book courtesy of being a librarian at the Fredricksen. I initially picked up this book because of how December reminded me of myself as a kid. I would also memorize facts about animals. I too was bullied for being a weirdo and a nerd. Like December, I struggled to make friends. This book is perfect for
Karen Gagnon
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In her stunning debut, author Sandy Stark – McGinnis, introduces us to December; a remarkable young girl with a love of birds & a vivid imagination.

Imagine being shuffled from one foster home to another & never really feeling like you truly belong anywhere? Imagine how it must feel when no one takes the time to understand you or the things you do? This is how eleven year old December feels every day. Unsure of who she really is or even where she truly belongs.

Young December knows every
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens-books
11-year-old December has moved from one foster family to another over the past several years. As she moves, she has learned not to have many possessions, enough that she can carry them in a couple of bags. One item she brings with her every move is her biography, a book that reminds her why she is special and different from those around her. With her large scar on her back, December believes that she was raised as partially a bird and will eventually have her wings and feathers and be able to ta ...more
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
December Lee Morgan is eleven years old. She has been placed in numerous foster homes over the past three years. December is convinced that the scars on her back are from where her wings once existed--and where they will break free from her human body again, returning her to her rightful form as a bird. When we first meet December she is, in fact, trying to practice flying by jumping from a tree. This escapade leads directly to December being moved to yet another foster home.

Joanne Sheppard
Extraordinary Birds by Sandy Stark-McGinnis is narrated by December, a troubled 11-year-old who loves birds so much that she's convinced she will one day turn into one. Abandoned by her mother some years ago, December has only one thing to remember her by, The Complete Guide To Birds Volume One. And December is writing a book of her own, too: a diary-cum-memoir of her quest to spread the wings she believes will unfurl from a scar on her back and fly.

After being moved from one of her
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This tender, beautiful story will touch your heart and stay with you for a very long time. You’ll remember December’s strength and her steadfast belief she’ll soon become a bird. You’ll remember Eleanor’s thoughtfulness, insight and patience. You’ll remember Cheryllynn’s kindness, love of pink and purple and her decision to no longer be Charlie. Your heart will break when you realize December’s certainty she is truly a bird, is actually because of the awful scar on her back; the scar she has con ...more
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Have you ever read a book that was just so weird, yet so captivating? That's what reading Extraordinary Birds was like for me. It's the story of girl who believes she is metamorphosing into a bird, and it's just so wonderful and strange.

December is a fascinating main character and her desire to be a bird who can fly away is intriguing throughout. Given this book looks at foster care, it's fitting that December has an obsession with birds and flight, a/>Huge
Valerie McEnroe
Sep 11, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: foster-care, lgbt
This book is far off the mark from anything a middle school kid would choose to read. The protagonist is mentally unstable and yet it is written as though wanting to be a bird, sitting in trees in the middle of the night, and jumping out of trees repeatedly is normal. On top of all that, the author chooses to name the protagonist December. Come on! Can anything about this book remotely resemble reality?

December has been in foster care nearly her whole life. She has a terrible scar on
Elaine Fultz
See review for A Monster Like Me (Swore) for comparison. Here, rather than a monster, our MC thinks she is bird which was abandoned by its mother. In and out of numerous foster homes (they usually surrender her after she jumps out of trees multiple times), December now finds herself in the home of a bird rescue/rehabilitation official who is also, ironically, a taxidermist. At first, December is certain Eleanor is going to add December as the most unique bird in her stuffed collection, but event ...more
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