Bird by Crystal Chan

BirdAs the daughter of a Jamaican father and a Mexican mother growing up in the middle of Iowa, Jewel’s life was never going to be the easiest. However, the fact that Jewel was born on the same day that her brother, Bird, died didn’t really help. Jewel’s grandfather stopped speaking after the tragedy and the rest of the family never fully recovered. Silence and avoidance permeate Jewel’s household as she constantly struggles to step out of her brother’s shadow. Then, one night in her favorite climbing tree Jewel meets a strange boy named John (Bird’s real name), and very quickly things begin to change. Is John a “duppy” – a Jamaican spirit the likes of which Jewel’s father and grandfather blame for the death of Bird? Or is he just a boy trying to find his own place in the world. Regardless of whether his appearance is merely coincidental or the work of stronger forces, John’s presence in the lives of Jewel and her family might be just the thing this family needs to break free of the pain of loss and silence.

Bird is a touching and intelligent look inside the life of a very special girl who has been overlooked for years. Although the story is told from Jewel’s point of view, Chan does a wonderful job of developing all of the important characters in Jewel’s life. We are even able to piece together a picture of Bird, the brother she never met, through the stories and bits and pieces that Jewel has collected over the years. In the audiobook Amandla Stenberg (you may recognize her as Rue from the movie The Hunger Games) provides the perfect voice for Chan’s Jewel. Stenberg’s delivery is bright and sweet and thoughtful while still maintaining an authentic childlike tone. As the story is told from the point of view of Jewel, Stenberg’s minimalist style of character variation works well here. It is clear that when the characters are speaking, we are hearing them as Jewel hears them. Whether reading the print version or listening to the audiobook, readers are sure to form an instant bond with this big-hearted little girl as she tries to come to terms with her family’s demons and make the most of her situation.

Look here for a short video about the story behind Bird.

Posted by: Staci

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