Birds are actually among my top favorite animals. So when I noticed that a children’s book had the word “bird” included in its title, my attention was instantly captured. Strange Birds’ title is metaphorical. Why? Because we can all be strange birds, being so different from one another. The book’s back cover blurb says: “Ofelia, the storyteller; Cat, the bird-watcher (or as I like to call her, the activist); Aster, the foodie; and Lane, the artist – Birds of a feather stick together!” With a simple look at the book cover, I knew I had to read it. Just look at that peacock (or peahen)’s feather – it’s beautiful! In addition, the diversity of four protagonists increased my excitement further because anyone can see themselves in either one. The flap cover states: “How do strangers become friends?” I love how Pérez’s contemporary fiction novel deals with this concept because it’s applicable to anyone – everyone has had to take charge of how to become friends with someone new at some point in their lives. Our four protagonists are a motley quartet of middle-schoolers who struggle with identity, agency, courage, activism, family, discrimination, and acceptance.
Let’s start with Cat Garcia; she has two sisters and a mother who were part of the Floras troop in fictional Sabal Palms, Florida, and now expect her to complete her membership to become a Miss Floras, the highest honor a Floras member can receive. Cat feels all the pressure of the world on her shoulders because she does NOT want to be a Miss Floras. The Floras troop uses a feathered hat and that’s a no-no in Cat’s book. She is a huge bird advocate, and her loyalty shines when she secretly stops attending the Floras’ meetings. One of the things that stands out for me is how Cat’s mother, Mrs. Garcia, tells her that she will get a good start in her career by being part of the famous Floras troop. This reminds me of how some parents try gearing their children towards one career path. I’m positive this will remind readers of similar circumstances they may have or are currently experiencing, making Cat’s story and how she deals with it that much more intriguing. Cat may not know it at first, but she’s not alone.
Lane DiSanti’s and Aster Douglas’ pasts intertwine – Aster’s grandfather, Mr. Douglas, is adamant about Sabal Palms’ famous Winter Sun pie being a Douglas family discovery, and not part of the DiSanti legacy as the town has grown up to believe. Furthermore, Lane and Aster are both struggling with the loss of their accustomed familial lives. Last, but not least, is Ofelia Castillo, who has many stories to tell, only she’s having a difficult time doing so because her overprotective parents don’t support her journalism dreams outside their Florida home. In an unexpected fashion, our four young girls meet for the first time and their encounters are far from perfect. I think it is worth highlighting the ethnic diversity of our four young leads; Cat Garcia, American with Cuban-American parents; Ofelia Castillo, Cuban-American; Aster Douglas, African-American of Bahamian descent; and Lane DiSanti; English descent.
They were awesome for me to read and learn how their storylines weaved together on a mission for change. I really like how Lane and Aster’s upbringing reflect our past and present society – Lane grew up with a high socio-economic standing while Aster has been nurtured with humbler origins. Aster expresses, “[Lane] lives on the west side of the Wall…it’s not a real wall, Gray Kingbird Avenue is where the town splits. East side is poor, mostly Black, west side is…different. Different mostly white, different mostly not poor.” (129). Aster further explains how Lane doesn’t have to worry about being judged the instant eyes are set on her. Of course, Lane counters Aster’s argument that Lane has no problems by revealing, “Just because I’m not poor or because I’m white doesn’t mean I don’t have problems too.” Celia C. Pérez delivers a very powerful scenario by having two youngsters openly talk about their socio-economic backgrounds and express how they feel about it. It is rare to find a children’s book with two young girls having such a strong and emotional conversation about discrimination, making it one of the things that helps Strange Birds stand out and shine. I am a huge fan of knowing multiple perspectives, so Celia C. Pérez’s writing of the story from the alternating perspectives of our four young heroines was a lovely surprise for me. As a reader you get to see how each youngster thinks about themselves and one another.
Between their individual differences and unity for Cat’s mission to change the Floras’ tradition, readers can expect to be presented with awesome facts about society. For instance, Cat teaches the other girls about the difference that exists when referring to male and female peacocks – peacock refers to males and peahen refers to females. Readers will also learn about the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which held people and businesses accountable for harming birds, the existence of a bird-dedicated app named Audubon (downloadable for free!), delicious new recipes, journalistic possibilities, inspiring art, and more.
I enjoyed the characters’ dialogue and activism attempts because it made the story feel realistic. I was reminded of growing up with Los Reyes Magos, among other Latinx things Pérez weaves into characters’ dialogue; “as a rinsed out can of Goya black beans flew through the air”, “Dale”, “arroz con gallo”, “the Floras hat reminded Cat of a quinceañera cake”, and “por favor”. As a multicultural reader, I loved feeling welcomed, included, and empowered reading this book and am excited that other readers will do too.
Each young heroine is on the same mission and with distinct reasons to put a stop to the Floras hat; Cat, to remove an unjust relic of the past; Lane, to make new friends; Aster, to make her own personal history right; and Ofelia, to live her own story. Young readers will be presented with what it takes to bring down old, unjust ways and welcome new, positive vibes – an introduction to social change. Be certain that you will finish this book with a fresh look at societal customs and your surroundings.
It’s really uplifting and exciting to have young girls be so enthusiastic, determined, and flexing their intellectual muscles about things that matter. For the Ostentation of Others and Outsiders: Cat, Lane, Aster, and Ofelia will take you on a journey about finding your own voice and power.
🕊️🦚 #BookRecommendation #LibrosRecomendados #BookReview #ReseñadelLibro 🦚🕊️
Rating: 5/5 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟