Home > Books > Bird
RRP: £7.99
9-11 yrs
by Crystal Chan
'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.
Reviews of Bird

Bird is a mysterious, lyrical and thought-provoking novel from an important new voice in children's literature.’
 (Kathi Appelt, Newbery Honor and National Book Award Finalist)

Bird is absolutely magical’
 (Askews & Holts Library Newsletter)

Bird is such a tragic yet hopeful story and I can't recommend it enough.’

Bird is a lovely and gently heartbreaking novel . . . For anyone who has even fleetingly felt a little bit lonely (or unloved), Bird will resonate. And if you have never felt like this, it may help you empathise with others. I found it hard to put down and stayed up until the early hours to finish it. Tissues recommended.’

Bird is full of interesting ingredients . . . Crystal Chan ably and subtly captures the nuances of friendship.’

Bird is one of those books that just needs to be read . . . This book is, at times, incredibly sad, but it leaves in its wake a great big smile and a pocketful of hope.’

Bird is one of those books that just needs to be read. It's a beautifully written account of an endless struggle, as well as that of a much-needed friendship . . . This book is, at times, incredibly sad, but it leaves in its wake a great big smile and a pocketful of hope.’

Bird is such a heartbreakingly beautiful novel about loss, friendship, family and love, and it will gently steal your heart. Let it.’

‘A bird flies, a grandpa stops speaking; secrets and spirits weave through a wondrous story. An exciting debut novel.’
 (Jamila Gavin)

‘An emotional story, beautifully told in the first person’
 (Parents in Touch)

‘Beautifully written literary debut novel about families and secrets, with a hint of magic.’

‘Crystal Chan has written an enthralling first novel about the darkness, light, and beauty that make up the human condition.’
 (Cynthia Kadohata, Newbery Award Winner)

‘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.’

‘Daughter of a Jamaican father and her half-Mexican, half-white mother, Jewel has always felt out of place in her small Iowa town . . . When Jewel meets John, an adopted black boy staying with his uncle, she finds a kindred spirit, someone as out of place as she is . . . Chan has carefully crafted John and Jewel as effective foils for each other; their shared interest in science propels multiple metaphors that help Jewel figure out what is solid and knowable versus what must be taken on faith or intuited . . . both character arcs show a deep respect for readers’ abilities to negotiate the complexities of belief and doubt, and to find meaning via character reflection’
 (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

‘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.’
 (Publishers Weekly)

‘Jewel is a multilayered, emotional character who struggles to come to terms with her family's issues. The mixture of superstition and science creates a wonderful juxtaposition in this powerful story about loss and moving on.’
 (School Library Journal)

‘Jewel’s observant reflections on her rural-Iowa world give this debut its considerable charm . . . the strong opening bodes well for future endeavors’
 (Kirkus Reviews)

‘Simultaneously sad and lovely, this is one of the best middle grade books we have read in a long time.’
 (The Bookbag)

‘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.’

‘The voice of 12-year-old Jewel carries readers through this lyrical and buoyant debut from Crystal Chan . . . Chan's strong characterizations and her way with words make her a writer to watch.’
 (Shelf Awareness)

‘This is a deeply profound and moving novel about a family broken by the death of a son . . .
You would not guess that this is Crystal's first novel. This is a rewarding and insightful and thought provoking book ideal for adults and readers of 11+ alike.’

 (Dulwich Books Review)

‘This is a slow read – thoughtful and introspective about the dynamics of a grieving family – and contemplative readers will be rewarded by Jewel’s journey.’

‘Wonderfully steeped in her culture, Jewel’s story is as rich as the scenery around her . . . A surprising story about superstition, loss and family that impresses and enchants.’