I first heard about Strange Birds at BookExpo and I knew immediately that I needed to read it. Ensemble stories, especially ensemble stories featuring girls and young women working toward activism and positive change, are my bookish kryptonite. From what I’ve heard of her award-winning debut, The First Rule of Punk I knew that a story like this would be well-handled and I eagerly anticipated it’s release. That’s why I was so grateful to not only have received a copy of the book but also to host Celia on her blog tour for the book’s release, out on September 3rd. Read on for Celia’s insight into her inspiration and then go put the book on hold at your local library or pre-order it. We’re all definitely in for a treat!
Strange Birds is a book about a lot of things–friendship, activism, kids having summer adventures, history, stories, conservation. But before it was even a story, or much of an idea, really, it began with a general feeling I wanted to capture. I knew I wanted this book to be set in South Florida where I grew up. I remembered childhood summers in Miami, the intense heat and that feeling that the days dragged without friends around or school to go to or planned activities. Summers sometimes felt less like vacation and more like survival of the fittest–who would make it to September not having died of boredom?!
Then, a few years ago I’d come across some articles about a group called the Radical Monarchs, a Scout troop formed in the Oakland area as an alternative to the traditional Girl Scouts. One of the co-founders is a Latina woman whose daughter wanted to join the Girl Scouts. In thinking about her daughter’s place in an organization like the Girl Scouts she realized that she wanted her daughter to be involved in a group that centered her experiences as a brown girl. With a friend, she formed the Radical Monarchs. Their focus is activism, social justice, community involvement, empowerment, learning history, and connecting with their own stories. I always love the idea of modifying traditions, so the origin story of this group really spoke to me. In thinking about this book, I had an image of a group of kids who were all outsiders in some way creating their own Scout troop.
In conversation with my editor we got to talking about adventure stories and adventure movies and thinking about how many of them center on, like a lot of media, groups of boys, specifically white boys, and wanting to take that “tradition” and change it up too. These were the early seeds of inspiration for what would become a story about a group, but also four individuals discovering truths about the world, about themselves, and about friendship.
From the award-winning author of The First Rule of Punk comes the story of four kids who form an alternative Scout troop that shakes up their sleepy Florida town.
“Writing with wry restraint that’s reminiscent of Kate DiCamillo… a beautiful tale of the value of friendship against unconquerable odds.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review!)
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.
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.