2014 has started with a bang, smack and a wallop here at Gobblefunked! We’ve welcomed not one but two new guest reviewers to our book-lovin’ family (hello Lois Shedd and Orla Hennessy!) and reviewed lots of new and classic books for children, including The Magic Finger, The Hobbit and Weirdo (thanks Sophie Suelzle).
It was going to be tough to end January on a high note but we think you’ll love what we have in store for you all. We’re delighted to be the first stop on the blog tour for Bird by debut author Crystal Chan (released tomorrow, 29th January. Text Publishing, Australia).
Chan will be busy visiting lots of fantastic review sites over the coming days, including Vegan YA Nerds, Kids’ Book Review and Diva Booknerd.Gobblefunked is thrilled to kick off the blog tour with an extract from Bird which is earning great reviews for its deeply moving portrayal of grief, secrets and the power of friendship. Keep on reading to discover more about this book and how you can bag yourself a copy of your own!
Grandpa stopped speaking the day he killed my brother, John. His name was John until Grandpa said he looked more like a Bird with the way he kept jumping off of things, and the name stuck. Bird’s thick, black hair poked out in every direction, just like the head feathers of the blackbirds, Grandpa said, and bet that one day Bird would fly like one too. Grandpa kept talking like that, and no one paid him much notice until Bird jumped off a cliff, the cliff at the edge of the tallgrass prairie, the cliff that dropped a good couple hundred feet to a dried-up riverbed below. Bird’s little blue bath towel was found not far from his body, snagged on a bush, the towel that served as wings. From that day on, Grandpa never spoke another word. Not one.
The day that Bird tried to fly, the grownups were out looking for him – all of them except Mom and Granny. That’s because that very day, I was born. And no one’s ever called me anything except Jewel, though sometimes I wish they had. Mom and Dad always said that I was named Jewel because I’m precious, but sometimes I think it’s because my name begins with “J”, just like John’s name, and because they miss him and didn’t want to give me a normal name like Jenny or Jackie. Because John had a normal name, and now he’s dead.
It was my twelfth birthday today, and everyone was supposed to be happy. It was hard to be happy, though, when Grandpa shut himself up in his room for the whole day, like he does every year on my birthday. Mom and Dad made me a cake with vanilla frosting and sprinkles, gave me a present – some socks from the dollar store, but they’re cute and all – and the three of us went to the cemetery to visit Bird and Granny. I always watch those movies where kids have big birthday parties with music and party hats and huge presents and even ponies, and I think it would be nice to have a birthday like that. Especially the ponies. Just once. Instead, I’ve always had to share my special day with the silence behind Grandpa’s closed door and the silence at the cemetery and the silence that hangs thick between Mom and Dad’s words.
Mom and Dad washed the dishes from my birthday cake and went to bed, but I couldn’t go to sleep tonight, just like every year on my birthday, because I kept imagining what Bird was like, what kind of brother he would have been, and what five-year-olds think when they throw themselves off cliffs.
So I did what I often do when I can’t sleep: I changed into my jeans and a long-sleeve shirt, sprayed on some bug spray, and crept out of the house and into the star-studded night. There’s this huge oak tree just down the road in Mr. McLaren’s field, and I often climb that tree as high as I can, and lean my back against its warm, thick trunk. There, I watch the moon arc through the sky and listen to the whirring of the crickets or the rustling of the oak leaves or the hollow calls of the owl.
For a moment, I thought about going to the cliff where my brother flew. But I knew better than to go there at night.
Now, in my small town of Caledonia, Iowa, we have one grocery store with one cashier named Susie, three churches, our part-time mayor, who works in our town hall that also serves as the post office, two restaurants that run the same specials, just on different days, and fourteen other businesses. Things here are as stable as the earth, and that’s how folks seem to like it. No one’s ever told me that going to the cliff should be kept secret, but that’s one of the things about adults: The most important rules to keep are the ones they never tell you, and the ones they get the angriest about if you break.
I wouldn’t tell them I go to the cliff anyway, because adults don’t listen to what kids have to say. Not really. If they did, they would actually look at me when I talk, look good and deep and open-like, ready to hear whatever comes out of my mouth, ready for anything. I don’t know any adult who’s ever looked at me like that, not even my parents. So the good stuff, the real things that I’ve seen and experienced, like at the cliff – I keep all that to myself. My family doesn’t fit in as it is.
Anyway, tonight I was making my way down County Line Road, which still radiated heat, and my tennis shoes were scruffing against the gravel when suddenly I got the feeling that something was wrong. Different. A shiver zipped across my skin. I stopped and looked at my oak tree. The moon was waxing, growing slowly towards its milky whole self, and the tree was glowing and dark at the same time, its arms spread wide like a priest toward the sky. As I squinted in the silver light, a pit formed in my stomach, and I realized what it was.
Someone was already in my tree.
- Author: Crystal Chan
- ISBN: 9781922147707
- Publisher: Text Publishing
About the author
Crystal Chan grew up as a mixed-race kid in the Wisconsin cornfields. She now lives in Chicago. As well as a writer, she is also a professional storyteller and performer. Bird is her first novel. For more information on Chan, her books and additional resources, visit her website.