Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Rare Birds, by Jeff Miller

Graham's mother is waiting for a heart transplant.  Over the past years, they've traveled from one hospital to another and finally ended up back home in Florida.  While Mom's in the hospital, Graham stays with his uncle and his cousin Nick.  While it's great to reconnect and learn a bit about what Mom was like when she was younger, the situation is not ideal.  Nick has his own issues with his mother and takes out his frustrations bullying Graham, but Graham's been through so much that he doesn't really care anymore.

While waiting at the hospital, Graham meets Lou who coincidentally is also waiting with her family for a donor heart to come.  With their shared situation, Lou and Graham bond easily and they discover a shared love for birding.  Going through Graham's mother's old things back home, they find Mom's birding journal and learn that she had been on a quest for a rare bird called a Snail Kite that she never found.  Determined to complete his Mom's quest in her honor as she waits for a donor, he and Lou set out on an adventure to find the Kite.

A lively middle grade adventure story that manages to cover two separate topics (organ transplants and ornithology) with a good mix of information and entertainment.  While the two main subjects are unrelated, I thought the birding helped to lighten the otherwise heavy nature of the medical stuff (especially given the story's rather heavy ending).  I was a bit annoyed at how passive Graham was and it soured me a bit on his character.  And I would have preferred if Nick had gotten some sort of comeuppance for his meanness.  However, the birding stuff was great and may encourage a few young people to pick up a pair of binoculars.

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