Strange Birds Cover Reveal by Celia C. Pérez
Before there is a story, there are images. A group of Brown and Black girls with fists in the air. Four boys walking along train tracks. Vintage Florida postcards with turquoise beaches and bright oranges hanging from trees.
Before there is a story, there are feelings. The overwhelming heat and humidity of a south Florida summer. The boredom and certainty that you will not survive until September unless something interesting happens.
Then come the questions. How do I handle change? What do I do when I want to be part of a group, but the ones that exist don’t quite fit me? Who am I in relation to the world and to my family? Who do I want to be? Who decides the stories that are told and the history that is remembered? How far will I go for something I believe in?
A few years ago, I learned about the Radical Monarchs, an alternative Scout troop based out of Oakland, California. The group centers the experiences of Brown and Black girls and focuses on activism and social justice. I am always intrigued by anything that at once honors traditions and also dismantles and reconfigures them to fit a changing world. I knew I wanted to incorporate this into a story. Thinking about a Scout troop and talking with my editor, Joanna Cárdenas, led to questions about non-white kids in nature and the outdoors, in adventure tales. Where are the stories like Stand by Me or The Goonies featuring Brown and Black kids?
Set in the fictional south Florida town of Sabal Palms, Strange Birds starts with four very bored girls and ends with one unforgettable summer. Each girl believes her summer break will promise only loneliness until a mysterious invitation to form a secret club brings them together. Ofelia, Aster, Lane, and Cat get off to a rough start, but they attempt to put aside their differences to take on a beloved tradition practiced by the Floras, a local Scout troop.
Strange Birds is an ode to Florida, summertime adventures, friendship, nature, and asking big questions. And there may, or may not, be a dead body too.
Now, without further ado, let’s meet the four main characters!
Which Strange Birds Character Are You?
How would you rather spend your day?
A. Trying to identify bird songs in the nature preserve
B. Writing a scathing Letter to the Editor
C. Trying out a new recipe
D. Crafting your own secret society
Which book do you most connect with?
A. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds
B. Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells
C. Mastering the Art of French Cooking
D. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
What is your favorite subject to study?
A. Natural sciences
B. Writing / journalism
C. Culinary Arts
D. Visual Arts
If you had to pick an anthem from these songs, which would it be?
A. “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge
B. “Hot Topic” by Le Tigre
C. “Invincible” by Pat Benatar
D. “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama
If you could only eat one thing, what would it be?
A. Anything that isn’t an animal.
B. Un pastelito de guayaba.
C. Why would anyone eat only one thing?
D. A bowl of Neapolitan ice cream.
Mostly A: You are Cat Garcia, future ornithologist, bird watcher, and, to your dismay, the Last Great Garcia Hope for becoming Miss Floras. You pride yourself on being kind to all living creatures and a rule-follower.
Mostly B: You are Ofelia Castillo, truth seeker and aspiring journalist. You dream of one day winning a Pulitzer Prize. If only your OCP—Overprotective Cuban Parents—would get out of your way.
Mostly C: You are Aster Douglas, homeschooler, amateur sleuth, and budding chef. You have a close relationship with your grandfather and will do anything to help him. You love trying out recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, sometimes with your own subversive twist.
Mostly D: You are Lane DiSanti, of THE history-book-old DiSanti family. You are a brooding artist and a prescriber of crystal powers. You know that while you can’t control who your family is, you can control how broadly you define family.
It is my pleasure to introduce you to Ofelia, Aster, Lane, and Cat, and to share with you the cover for Strange Birds, so beautifully and thoughtfully illustrated by the amazing Shannon Wright and art directed by Dana Li. I hope you have as much fun reading this story as I did creating it!
Celia C. Pérez is the author of The First Rule of Punk, a 2018 Pura Belpré Author Honor Book, a 2018 Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award Winner, and a 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Fiction and Poetry Honor Book. She lives in Chicago with her family where, in addition to writing books about lovable weirdos and outsiders, she works as a librarian. She is originally from Miami, Florida, where roosters and peacocks really do wander the streets. Visit her at celiacperez.com.
ABOUT THE BOOK: When three very different girls find a mysterious invitation to a lavish mansion, the promise of adventure and mischief is too intriguing to pass up. Ofelia Castillo (a budding journalist), Aster Douglas (a bookish foodie), and Cat Garcia (a rule-abiding birdwatcher) meet the kid behind the invite, Lane DiSanti, and it isn’t love at first sight. But they soon bond over a shared mission to get the Floras, their local Scouts, to ditch an outdated tradition. In their quest for justice, independence, and an unforgettable summer, the girls form their own troop and find something they didn’t know they needed: sisterhood.