You might want to get The Secret Language of Birds by Lynne Kelly | Mentoring in the Middle

You might want to get The Secret Language of Birds by Lynne Kelly


Book cover for The Secret Language of Birds shows a girl with a flashlight and a whooping crane in the background

I read this second book by Lynne Kelly several years after reading Song for a Whale (you can read my review here) and I was pleasantly surprised that she chose to have this protagonist drawn to animals, too.

You can see my review on YouTube here:

 📖Or just keep reading below:

Nina, the middle child of five, a bit of an odd duck in her family and at school, accidentally gets left behind at a Buc-ees on a family trip. That incident sparked an interest in birds, and she takes to watching them at home, adding a bird app to her phone to help her identify birds by their songs. Her parents support her interest, ordering a trail cam for the yard so she can see what they do when she’s not around.

As her parents start to plan her summer for her, Nina is encouraged by her older sister to spend time somewhere where she’d fit in more, like at her Aunt Audrey’s summer camp. Nina thinks being outside in nature would be something she’d enjoy and her aunt is thrilled to have her visit.

At camp, Nina slowly makes friends with a group of girls who refer to themselves as the Oddballs, and their welcoming her into their group makes her (and them) feel a little less unusual.

On the night of the first full moon, there's a tradition at camp where the older students get everyone to visit the abandoned and haunted old infirmary. A girl named Josephine died many years before and they claim she haunts it. Outside the cabin, Nina drops her flashlight; she and her friends see something white off in the distance and hear a loud shriek. Ghosts, of course!

Nina wonders what she saw, leading her back to the cabin in the daylight, where she realizes that whooping cranes are nesting nearby. But cranes don’t live in Texas any longer. With the help of the Oddballs and some equipment, the girls monitor the whooping cranes and their nest daily.

Their observations lead them to dig deeper, reconnecting her with an old "friend" and introducing her to scientists who monitor whooping cranes around the country.

I liked that Nina came into her own with a group of girls who enjoyed each other’s company and that these friends were equally committed to helping her monitor the cranes’ activities. I especially liked that Nina reconnected with Iris, from A Song for a Whale. That connection should make your students want to read that book, too. Different perspectives on their relationship! It would be fun to have a discussion with students after they'd read both books.

This is a sweet coming-of-age story about a kid who feels like she doesn’t fit in. I would recommend it to middle-grade teachers and librarians.

Special thanks to Netgalley and the author for letting me read an early copy. 

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