Cover Image: Rare Birds

Rare Birds

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Member Reviews

This book wrecked me. I laughed, smiled, and bawled my way through it. It is a beautiful story with a beautiful theme of not wasting a moment of the life we've been given. Highly recommend this one and can't wait to add it to my classroom and school libraries!
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Thank you to the author, Union Square Kids and NetGalley, for an ARC in exchange for an honest  review. 

This middle-grade book is an unexpected gem. It deals with heavy topic matter, with the protagonist's mother suffering from a heart condition and on the transplant list. The two of them live an unsettled life, travelling from one clinic to another, spending lots of time in hospitals and not really able to make friends before having to move on. They end up in Florida, where the mother grew up, and the main themes of the story - friendship and the meaning of being alive - blossom beautifully out of the narrative. The topics of bullying, family dynamics and death are also touched on, without being overwhelming and with showing ways of dealing with them. Both the main and the secondary characters are well-developed and the POV of the protagonist (a 12-year-old boy) rings true. Highly recommend for both middle-grade kids and adults.
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Story of the book-

Graham Dodds, 12, is accustomed to sitting in hospital waiting areas. He occasionally has the impression that his entire existence is a waiting room. waiting for the next physician to diagnose his mother’s condition. waiting to learn which city they will be relocating to next. for the miracle that would save his mother’s life—a heart transplant—to come about.

Graham is now waiting while spending the summer in Florida. However, he makes a buddy who requires a diversion just as much as he does when he meets a lady called Lou in the hospital. She informs him of a hunt for the rare Snail Kite, which is found in the neighborhood’s gator-infested wetlands. Together, they set off on a quest to find the rare bird, and Graham might just discover something else—himself—along the way.

My review-

In this enduring middle-grade book, Jeff Miller tells a moving tale about what it means to live. This novel was excellently written. It addresses a weighty subject in a significant and engaging manner. It was a wise decision to include the bird-watching plot in the narrative, and I admired Graham’s mother’s perspective on birds. A Middle-Grade book that challenges readers to examine themselves and live life to the fullest. Powerful, emotional, and multifaceted. The title implies a lot when you read the novel, the characters are mature and understanding adults, friendship is so pure and dependable, and the unlikely favorite character will be in your heart forever once you’ve finished the book! The interpersonal character dynamics are always my favorite aspect of a book, and I adored Graham’s interactions with his mother, Dom and Nick, and of course Lou. Because they had their difficulties and lives, the supporting cast members were the ideal complement to Graham’s narrative.

It’s a terrific idea for youngsters to look up to view pictures of the birds because the book also lists many bird species. Florida is my favorite location. Florida is my favorite location. The scene has been established quite effectively by Miller. The gator tale and canoe trips into the glades are two of my favorite things. Even though I’m not sure today’s youngsters would have the same boldness, I appreciate the idea of the kids being independent and venturing forth. Readers are invited into the world of a twelve-year-old birdwatcher searching for a place to call home and a way to save his mother, even if it necessitates venturing far into Florida swampland, in Jeff Miller’s heartbreaking, coming-of-age middle-grade novel. The book was inspired by Jeff Miller’s personal experience living through his own parent’s heart transplant.
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Welp, it made me cry...beautifully told story about a kid in limbo waiting for a heart transplant for his mom and then his friend. Authentic characters, including Nick, who is less than likable to begin with.
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Rare Birds is a beautiful book about friendship and the meaning of being alive. Graham is 12 and has just moved to Florida, where his mom grew up. His mom has a heart condition and is on the transplant list. For support, Graham has moved in with a childhood friend of his mother's who also has a son. Graham spends a lot of time in the hospital with his mom and meets Lou, a girl his age who also spends more time in the hospital than any kid should have to. Graham discovers an old notebook and finds out his mom was an avid bird watcher. She was never able to find one native bird so Graham and Lou start searching for it in hopes of raising his mom's spirits.

This book is beautiful. It's a wonderful demonstration of what it means to be a friend and how life should be lived to the fullest and not taken for granted. Rare Birds is pretty short but there is a lot to this book, it discusses family dynamics, bullying, in addition to life and death. The characters are well developed and easy to love and I enjoyed the birding aspect. I do think that the plot is a bit complex for middle grade but as an adult it was appreciated and I think this may be a good book for any young person beginning to question life/death or having to deal with death or severe illness in their life. I recommend this book but if you think a young person in your life would be interested in it maybe read it yourself first so you can gauge the maturity level.
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A beautiful MG story about a young boy whose mother is in need of a heart transplant. Graham and his mom are settling down in Florida after trying hospitals in a few states, hoping this is where their luck will be. After making a new friend (and a new nemesis)  Graham learns his mother used to be into birding. There is one bird left on the list of birds she tried to find when younger. Graham and his new friend Lou are determined to find the bird, while also winning a local birding contest. Will the be successful? Will Graham's mom get a heart before her time runs out? MG readers and beyond will not be able to put this book down as they read to find out what happens. 

*Teachers and parents should be aware that this book does have some sad/sensitive topics. If you have a sensitive child please read the book alongside your student/child or read it first so you know if it's right for them. 

I highly recommend this book and will be ordering a copy to read with my third grade son!
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Everything works perfectly when it comes to this amazing middle grade book. The author has taken real incidents as inspiration to write this book.

One of my most anticipated books of 2023 and I already know it doesn’t know how to disappoint! Heartfelt writing, well developed characters, meaningful moments, mature and understanding adult characters, friendship so pure and reliable, the title means a lot when you read the story and the unlikely favourite character will stay forever once you read the book till the end!

I would say the writing is so good. Moreover, the short chapters add so much fun while reading the book. Love the little careful details regarding the print and I know for sure the paperback will feel so good! It’s going to be so good.

It’s the story of a boy whose main part of his days would be visiting hospitals with his mother waiting for a heart transplant to save her life. 

He meets a new friend. Also get ready to know a very unusual character. I am telling you it’s so good to know all these characters, what they do to make things better for each other and how they find ways to bring some adventure amidst their struggles.

Such a meaningful read. Just grab this book when it comes out!

Thank you, Union Square Kids /Sterling Publishing, for the advance reading copy.
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This book is an emotional read that may be too excessive and in depth for the age intended. While I enjoyed the story, I do not think the age it is intended for will. Rare Birds is full of heart and a unique perspective that is engaging for adults but may confuse or defer Middle Grade kids. I would not purchase this book for my classroom library because I do not think it would be read or referred to by students who attempt to read it. I think if this story fully fleshed out one idea of conflict, rather than engaging multiple ideas, it would sit better with younger students. 

I did enjoy the characters for the most part because they were believable. Although, I felt they sounded way wiser and older than 12 years old. There were times I felt the kids reacted like older teenagers than pre-teens. I also did not find that Nick’s character had been 100% set in stone. It was like the author was still trying to figure him out and in the story as well. I would recommend Rare Birds to my older students in high school, but this would not be for a middle grade student.
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i really enjoyed the book. I got attached to the characters and the ending was very emotional. The book is definitely worth reading, it portrays a variety of important qualities and problems. Overall, I recommend.
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Summer's not over yet and neither is summer reading! Still time to slide in a few more books like the oh so lovely Rare Birds by Jeff Miller. This book has the feel of the end of summer - sweet and sad, with a little bit of urgency to get all the things done before it ends.

Graham and his mother have moved all over the US trying to find a cure for her illness. Their last-ditch effort lands them back in her hometown in Florida. Waiting (once again) in the hospital, Graham meets Lou, a girl who knows which ice machine is the best and which janitor is the kindest. Together, they decide to enter a contest to find the Snail Kite, a rare bird that his mom was looking for when she was younger. As they roam through backwaters and swamps, evading alligators and mean rich kids,  Graham and Lou learn about what it means to be a rare bird.

This book will appeal to readers who like books that tackle hard subjects in gentle ways (think Lynda Mullaly Hunt or Wendy Mass). Bonus points for having a male protagonist as so many books in the genre do not.

Thanks to @netgalley for the ARC.
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Graham and his new friend Lou are determined to find the Snail Kite, a rare bird, to win a contest and raise the spirits of their parents. Graham's mother is awaiting a heart transplant, and Graham is sure that finding the bird will lead to a miracle for her. Jeff Miller brings to life a great cast of characters in this middle grade novel.
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I waffled over whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars. My indecision was over my gut feeling on how likely kids are to pick this up and read it and my personal reaction to the story, the characters, the plausibility, and cohesion. I went with the later, and so, 4 stars. The story is unique, full of heart, and fully engaging to adults, but the dual plot is problematic for kids. Middle grade kids prefer plots that hone in on one conflict and fully flesh it out, rather than trying to bring multiple ideas into one story.

Here's the gist. Graham's mother has a severe heart condition that requires a transplant. This brings her back to her Florida Everglades hometown where oddly, her chances of getting one are higher. Graham and his mom move in with a guy who she's known since her childhood. The only problem for Graham is that he has a son with a chip on his shoulder. 

Graham discovers that his mom had a thing for rare birds and there's one that always eluded her: the Snail Kite (a real bird, by the way, but not orange). Interestingly, there's a girl, Lou, hanging out at the hospital who also has an interest in birds. When they learn about a contest with a substantial financial reward for anyone who gets a photo of the Snail Kite, they become instant, inseparable friends, canoeing the mysterious byways of the Everglades. 

For the most part I liked all the characters. When I say "like" I mean I found them all believable. There's two exceptions. One is the age of the characters. They are 12, but sound much older. The other is Nick, the kid with a chip on his shoulder. His personality does a 180 from bad to good and I never fall for that. It's just not reality. I very much like Graham and Lou's friendship. Given what they've been through with so much of their lives spent in hospitals, their attachment is natural. I also like the bullies. They're hardcore, sabotaging Graham's expeditions in the glades. 

I love the Florida setting. Miller has done a very good job of setting the scene. I especially love the gator legend and canoe excursions into the glades. I like the kids being on their own, exploring, even though I'm not sure kids today would have such bravery. 

What bothers me the most about this book is the dual plot. It's going to make kids tire easily. I've seen this again and again with kids. While the medical part is interesting, it just gives you one more thing to keep track of. The best part of the book centers around the bullies and the Everglades. I wish that had been developed more. The heart transplant plot would be more effective in its own story.
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Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for letting me review this book. This was a good read. Even though Graham’s mom is sick; he still tries to be upbeat and positive. 
His mom thinks she spots an elusive bird and I like how he helps her try to find it since she never found it when she was a kid. He makes a new friend in the hospital and they both hunt for the elusive bird. Lou was one of my favorite characters.  The book mentions various bird species also; so it’s great for kids to look up to see what the birds look like.
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“Rare Birds” is a realistic fiction middle grade novel by Jeff Miller which is due to be released on January 31, 2023.

“Rare Birds” is the story of Graham, a boy who just moved to Florida with his mom. His mom is in need of a heart transplant. So Graham is staying with a friend of his mom’s from high school named Dom and Dom’s son. At the hospital he meets a girl named Lou, who becomes his partner in trying to find a rare bird for a contest and to complete a bird watching journal of Graham’s mom.

This book had twists I didn’t see coming (which is a good thing!). It was incredibly emotional and will stick with me for a long time to come. I recommend this book for upper elementary.
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It all happens for a reason. 

A powerful, emotional, multilayered Middle Grade read, that forces readers to look at themselves and embrace life to the fullest. Coming out January 2023. 

Graham is a quirky yet likeable character who tells us his story as his mom seeks a life saving heart transplant. It’s just the two of them as his dad died when he was young and they’ve been moving from place to place in hopes of finding that heart. We pick up the story as they move to his mom’s hometown in Florida, where they move in with Dom, a high school friend of hers. Dom has a son who is angry at the world and none to pleased to be sharing his space with Graham. Just as Graham is starting to learn more about his mom and dads history in Florida and his mom’s unfinished bird journal, her heart takes a turn for the worst and she’s admitted to hospital. At the hospital, Graham meets a girl named Lou and through their shared experiences of tough times, they immediately bond. Lou discovers a bird finding contest that would help to finish Graham’s mom’s bird journal and the adventure begins.  Graham, Lou and Nick end up changed forever as they hunt for a rare bird and are forced to face their own inner demons along the way.

Filled with twists and turns, I had a hard time putting this one down. I feel as though it impacted me and so I know this will impact my students as well and I think this will make for an excellent read aloud or novel study with students in Grades 5-8.
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Graham is 12 years old and is used to moving around. With his mom’s heart condition, they’re constantly in search of the best doctors and spend plenty of time in hospitals. This time, they’re heading to south Florida. Graham settles into his usual hospital routine until he encounters a girl his age who already knows where the best ice machine is and which janitors he should befriend. They quickly become friends and decide to enter a birding contest together. Can they find the endangered Snail Kite before the contest ends?

This was a really well written book. It deals with a heavy topic in a meaningful and interesting way. Weaving the bird watching plot into the story was an excellent choice, and I loved the way Graham’s mom thought about birds. Both plots were well paced and woven together in a way that complimented each other. The ending was well done and a lovely way to end this work. 

The characters were excellently written. Graham was a relatable protagonist, with realistic feelings, thoughts, and actions. I really enjoyed the relationships between the characters as well as their interactions. The secondary characters were the perfect support for this story, having lives and struggles of their own that still complimented Graham’s story. And I loved Lou – she was the perfect sidekick!

I highly recommend this work to Young Adult readers and older readers alike. This was a heartwarming and interesting story that I couldn’t put down and offered important insights into the lives of others. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Union Square Kids for providing a review copy of this work. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I loved the balance between the birding adventure and the hospital scenes. The only thing that didn't work for me was the "it all happens for a reason" vibe, which doesn't resonate with me, especially in a story that's dealing with health and mortality the way this one is, but your milage will vary on that. I look forward to this book coming out so I can recommend it!
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Middle grade books dealing with heavy topics are my current favorite genre so naturally, when I saw Rare Birds on here, I had to request it.

I’ve read plenty of middle grade books featuring a protagonist dealing with a loved one’s illness, but this is the first time I’ve read one specifically about heart problems and that hit a little close to home. Graham’s pov was incredibly accurate too and I loved it.

And the birds!! I love birds, so I always love when bird watching plots get weaved in there.

My favorite part of any novel (but especially contemporaries) is the inter-personal character dynamics and I loved Graham and his relationships with his mother, Dom and Nick, and of course Lou :). (Lou is 100% the kind of supporting character that I adore, and I loved her.)

Oh, and that ending hurt me personally. I saw it coming, but man, it hurt and I loved it :,)

Perfect for fans of Beth Vrabel’s Caleb and Kit.
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