Extraordinary Birds

December is convinced she will transform into a bird, with wings coming out of the scar on her back. Spending all of her free time training and preparing for her transformation, she can frequently be found climbing up trees or eating seeds at the dinner table.

Having grown up in the care system spending short periods of time with various different foster families, it seems the one constant that December has in her life is her love of birds, fueling her belief that one day she will fly away and none of her human experiences will be relevant.

The way that Decembers attitude and obsession is detailed by author Sandy Stark-McGinnis helps to transport you into the world of a foster child, fully immersing you in a world of uncertainty and helping you appreciate the child’s likely behaviour, for example when December arrives at a new potential foster parents house she is instantly dismissive of any Attempts of affection or assistance, believing she will not be there long enough to form any worthwhile bond and that remaining self sufficient is key to her survival.

When December starts a new school she has none of the first day nerves most children would in that situation, she has after all had many a first day at many a school. While wandering the school playground she meets Cheryllynn, a girl that first attended school there as a boy called Charlie and who is consequently treated like an outcast.

Hearing Cheryllynns story was inspirational, and that she remains true to herself and who she wants to be regardless of outside perceptions and opinions echoes December’s strong belief in her own destiny and determination to be successful in it; so it’s understandable and heart warming that the two become friends.

Eleanor, the lady that is currently fostering December does all she can to make the her Feel at home while living there. She doesn’t discourage December’s desire to climb trees or eat seeds at meal times, preferring instead to educate December in alternatives through her own actions with a ‘take it or leave it’ approach, and this leaves December feeling accepted and as though she has choices, which although unfamiliar to her is appreciated.

My favourite scene depicting this is when Eleanor and December go to choose pumpkins for thanksgiving together and Eleanor explains how you differentiate them and asks December to choose; an activity so many take for granted but seeming so much more significant and special here.

Other,more significant details, like Eleanor also having a love of birds and working in a bird rescue centre mean December starts to feel, for the first time, a part of something, included- significant. This book makes for quite the emotional journey, accompanying December on her fragile and plotted path to the future she desires, experiencing the many bumps in the road that test her resolve, and reaching a justified, emotional destination of her choosing. I thought it very fitting that she met an advocate for self belief along the way in Cheryllynn and that the two complimented each other so well.

Reflective of life itself: only when December has dealt with the past that she had been hiding from – or one might even suggest flying, unwilling to accept it for what it was, that she opened herself up to the possibility of being truly happy, and the concluding part to this story is very emotional to read whilst simultaneously offering a hope December would find her sense of happiness – the dominant theme throughout.

Publication date – 30.04.19        RRP £6.99

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