For the second Finest of Suppers Book and Cook club, I am featuring Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Pérez. This is a middle grade novel about four girls who band together in the cause of truth and justice and end up finding friendship in the process. Strange Birds is on the older side for the books featured on Finest of Suppers and is probably most appropriate for ages 10 to 13. However, I think some younger kids would connect to the story and it’s themes, especially if the book is read aloud with an adult.
The events in Strange Birds take place over the course of one summer in the town of Sabal Palms, Florida where a local troop of scouts, called The Floras, is getting ready for their annual Miss Floras competition. Part of the prize for winning the competition is a chance to wear the famous Miss Floras hat, which has been part of the troop’s history for a hundred years. Twelve year old Cat Garcia, who’s family have been members of The Floras for generations, objects to the fact that the Miss Floras hat is decorated with the feathers of endangered birds who were hunted in order to obtain their feathers. She voices her objections during a Miss Floras meeting but feels like she is not being heard. Through a series of encounters, Cat ends up banding together with three other girls, Ofelia, Lane, and Aster to form a new scout troop: The Ostentation of Others and Outsiders Troop. In their meetings in Lane’s tree house, the four girls come up with their troop mission statement, “to seek truth and justice, demonstrate kindness, and create community.” In this spirit, their first mission is to protest The Floras use of the feathered hat and publicize their reasons for objecting. The ensuing story is an empowering tale that illustrates how young girls can make their voices heard through tenacity and creative protest. I love any book that shows girls working together constructively and Strange Birds is particularly good at showing how each girl’s unique talents and interests strengthen the group.
A side plot in Strange Birds involves Aster’s search for the truth about how the mysterious Winter Sun Oranges came to be cultivated in Sabal Palms and who created the recipe for Winter Sun Pie for which the town is famous. While most people think the wealthy DiSanti family imported the orange variety to plant in their extensive orchards, Aster’s Grandfather has another theory. He believes the Winter Sun Oranges, and the famous pie recipe, were imported by his ancestors from the Bahamas. Aster takes her friendship with Lane DiSanti as an opportunity to snoop in the family’s historical archives and try to find out the truth. Of course, I had to try and recreate the delicious sounding Winter Sun Pie. The book describes the pie as “the perfect combination of a lemon meringue pie and key lime pie”. I decided to make a tart orange flavored filling laced with vanilla and top it with a fluffy meringue. A graham cracker crust might make this pie closer to the one described in the book, and easier to make, but as I didn’t have any graham crackers on hand I decided to try it with a regular pre-baked pie crust. I think either way would be equally delicious and I’ll definitely be trying a graham cracker crust version soon.
(recipe not found or in draft status)