We’re always on the hunt for something new to read, but sometimes the number of choices can be overwhelming. I try to make the choice easier by picking a book based on my favorite thing: like my favorite bird. Here are some books/series you can choose from based on your favorite bird.
Books with “Cardinal” in the title seem to be packed with action and mystery as seen in The Cardinal series by Mia Shantz and in the book The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal by Lilian Jackson Braun, though both have very different vibes from each other. The six-book Cardinal series, starting with The Cardinal Bird, begins with main protagonist Callie Jensen who is a math genius and an outcast at school. Everything changes once she is a kidnapped by a notorious criminal, and Callie must then use her math skills to survive as she grows up in the world of crime.
Similarly, The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal is a part of a series called The Cat Who… in which Jim Qwilleran, a prizewinning journalist, and his all-knowing Siamese cat, Koko, solve crimes and mysteries together. In this particular story, the murder of a local Shakespeare theatre troupe actor takes place right at Jim and Koko’s front door, and they suspect one of the players is behind it all.
Just like the birds themselves, these two books represent the more colorful things in life. Both The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta and Flamingo by Rachel Elliott are about embracing oneself and learning to be fearless. Winner of the Stonewall Book Award, The Black Flamingo follows Michael a mixed-race gay teen who finds himself after discovering the art of drag performance. This novel is an uplifting coming-of-age story about exploring cultural identity, sexuality, and gender identity.
Rachel Elliott’s Flamingo similarly explores sexuality and acceptance as we mainly follow Sherry, a wife and mother, who falls in love with her neighbor Eve. However, after Eve disappears and her now adult son, Daniel, shows up at Sherry’s door, Sherry must reconcile with the piece that is missing and what that means for her and her family. Switching between two different eras, 2018 and the 1980s, the novel delves into heartbreaks as well as gratitude and forgiveness. Both of these novels have an element of hope and brightness that one can see in the flamingo.
For books with “Blue Jay” in their titles, the stories seem to focus around dealing with loss and grief and finding hope among the people we love. We can see these themes especially in the novels The Blue Jay by Michelle Schlicher and Blue Jay by A. Zukowski. In her debut novel, Michelle Schlicher centers her story around an unlikely pair: a teacher, Josie McCray, whose mother left her at eight years old and her student, Payton Runnells, whose mother also left leaving him in foster care. Both are slow to trust and have walls built up, but through this shared experience both Josie and Payton learn to open up and experience what life has to offer them. It is a moving story about a teacher and their student mentoring each other in their friendship.
The last book in the London Stories series, Blue Jay centers around boxing enthusiast Alex who can no longer enjoy the sport he loved after spending four years in prison for a crime he was forced to commit. After being released, Alex serendipitously meets Chris, a non-binary former child star, who now makes a living working as an escort. Both Alex and Chris spent their lives taking care of their parents and now it is times for them to take care of themselves and each other.
Books with the tiny and beautiful hummingbird in the title are more about defying expectations and traditions. The novels The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See and The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea focus on women who decide they do not wish to do do as they are told and instead choose to forge their own paths. Li-yan in The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane lives with her family and works in her small village as a tea farmer. Li-yan becomes discontent with the mundanity of her life after a stranger in a jeep appears at the village gates. She begins to reject the customs and traditions of her village particularly after she becomes pregnant out of wedlock; in which the custom of her people dictate the baby must be killed. Li-yan decides to give up her baby for adoption and flee to the city; from there the story focuses on reunited Li-yan and her long lost daughter.
In a similar yet different way, Teresita in The Hummingbird’s Daughter, illegitimate of the wealthy and powerful rancher Don Tomas Urrea, defies the expectations of her family by not rejecting the customs and traditions of her family but by embracing them to the fullest. In this fantastically mystical tale Teresita must face trials and tribulations upon her death in order to become Saint of Cabora. The novel is full of magical realism, Mexican history folklore, and Catholic sainthood that comes from nearly 20 years of research and writing done by Luis Alberto Urrea on his past and his heritage.
You probably weren’t expecting ostriches on this list, but they have to be someone’s favorite bird, right? One can probably assume that just like the funny looking land-bird, book with ostrich in the title tend to lean towards the more humorous writing. Both 142 Ostriches by April Davila and The Ostrich and Other Lost Things by Beth Hautala though humorous in their writing styles still focus on some complicated topics in which the protagonists must pull their heads out of the sand (as the pun goes) in order to face issues dealing with their families.
In 142 Ostriches, Tallulah Jones moves away from her alcoholic mother and moves under her grandmother’s care at her ostrich ranch. Tallulah loved growing up and caring for the ostriches, but had no interest staying at the farm once she was older. However, after the death of her grandma, the ostriches mysteriously stopped laying eggs. With no one wanting to buy an ostrich ranch that didn’t produce eggs, Tallulah has to step up and figure out way. Through her journey of figuring out why the ostriches will not lay eggs, she discovers hard truths and reveals long forgotten secrets about her family’s past: a past which she had so long wished to ignore.
Much like Tallulah, young Olivia Grant in The Ostrich and Other Lost Things has an estranged relationship with her family. Because her older brother, Jacob, is autistic, Olivia feels forever in his shadow as their parents give much of their attention to him. In an attempt to separate herself from her brother, Olivia tries out for a local production of Peter Pan, but the presence of a visiting zoo creates more chaos than she can handle. Throughout the book, Olivia learns how to separate her image from her brother’s while still loving Jacob. It’s a heartfelt story about tweens dealing with growing up and learning to get along with one’s siblings.
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