'Grandpa stopped speaking the day he killed my brother, John. His name was John until Grandpa said he looked more like a Bird with the way he kept jumping off things, and the name stuck. Bird’s thick, black hair poked out in every direction, just like the head feathers of the blackbirds, Grandpa said, and he bet that one day Bird would fly like one too. Grandpa kept talking like that, and no one paid him much notice until Bird jumped off a cliff, the cliff at the edge of the tallgrass prairie, the cliff that dropped a good couple hundred feet to a dried-up riverbed below. From that day on, Grandpa never spoke another word. Not one.
The day that Bird tried to fly, the grown-ups were out looking for him – all of them except Mom and Granny. That’s because that very day, I was born.'
Twelve-year-old Jewel never knew her brother, but all her life she has lived in his shadow. Then one night, on her birthday, she finds a mysterious boy sitting in her oak tree. His name is John. And he changes everything.
The extraordinary debut novel by Crystal Chan juggles a possible suicide, a mute and terrifying grandfather, astronomy, geology, betrayal and love with elegance and guts . . . The best thing about Bird isn't just its cultural uniqueness – not many kids' novels are about duppies, or Jamaican evil spirits – but how this excellent book feels like it actually happened.
Crystal Chan's debut is a heartbreaker, a children's book with the potential to move readers of any age. Anyone who has ever felt like a cuckoo in the nest will be grateful for this assured, unsentimental novel.
Simultaneously sad and lovely, this is one of the best middle grade books we have read in a long time.
In a thoughtful debut, Chan weaves together topics of race, repressed emotion, and destructive family dynamics, setting events against the beauty of the Midwestern landscape. Jewel's gentle voice offers moments of insight and wisdom as she becomes empowered to move beyond her parents' losses and desires.
Beautifully written literary debut novel about families and secrets, with a hint of magic.