Entrenched secrets, mysterious spirits, and an astonishing friendship weave together in this extraordinary and haunting debut that School Library Journal calls “a powerful story about loss and moving on.”
Nothing matters. Only Bird matters. And he flew away.
Jewel never knew her brother Bird, but all her life she has lived in his shadow. Her parents blame Grandpa for the tragedy of their family’s past: they say that Grandpa attracted a malevolent spirit—a duppy—into their home. Grandpa hasn’t spoken a word since. Now Jewel is twelve, and she lives in a house full of secrets and impenetrable silence.
Jewel is sure that no one will ever love her like they loved Bird, until the night that she meets a mysterious boy in a tree. Grandpa is convinced that the boy is a duppy, but Jewel knows that he is something more. And that maybe—just maybe—the time has come to break through the stagnant silence of the past.
Jewel's five-year-old brother, John, nicknamed Bird, was expecting to fly when he jumped off a cliff to his death the day Jewel was born. Twelve years later, Jewel's family is far from having recovered. Grandpa hasn't spoken since, Jewel's father believes that both Grandpa and "duppies" (harmful Jamaican spirits) are responsible for the tragedy, and Jewel's mother, who is of Mexican descent, is depressed and resentful of the family's superstitions. An outsider in her own joyless home and in her small town of Caledonia, Iowa, Jewel takes her troubles to nature, dreaming of becoming a geologist. When she meets a boy named John with big aspirations and struggles of his own, they become friends. Grandpa, however, thinks John is a duppy, and when John betrays Jewel's trust, she's forced to assess her own beliefs. In a thoughtful debut, Chan weaves together topics of race, repressed emotion, and destructive family dynamics, setting events against the beauty of the Midwestern landscape. Jewel's gentle voice offers moments of insight and wisdom as she becomes empowered to move beyond her parents' losses and desires. Ages 8 12.