About the Book

I was on Wisconsin Public Radio talking about growing up mixed race in Wisconsin! You can listen to my 3-minute essay here.

Amandla Stenberg (who played Rue in The HungeAmandla and mer Games), also read the audio book for Bird, and we met up in Los Angeles. You can learn more about the book (and hear Amandla’s reading of the first chapter) using the links below.




about the book


It’s only natural to have silence and secrets in your family when you’re born on the same day that your brother died. At least, that’s sure what it seems like for twelve-year old Jewel. Add to that the fact that you’re the only mixed-race family in your rural Iowan town, and well, life can get kind of lonely sometimes. But when a boy named John moves into her town, his courage and charisma immediately stand out and the two kids instantly click. John’s presence, however, has an unsettling effect on her family. As the thick layers of silence in her family begin to unravel, Jewel finds that her life is not as stable nor her family’s expectations as certain as she once thought. Suddenly, Jewel needs to choose whether to stay loyal to the person her family wants her to be or to claim her own identity, no matter the cost.


Story is read by Amandla Stenberg, who played Rue in the Hunger Games!


“Crystal Chan has written an enthralling first novel about the darkness, light, and beauty that make up the human condition.”

-Cynthia Kadohata, author of Newbery-winner KIRA KIRA


“Bird is a mysterious, lyrical, and  thought-provoking novel from an important new voice in children’s literature.”

– Kathi Appelt, author of THE UNDERNEATH, Newbery Honor and National Book Award Finalist


“A Bird flies, a grandpa stops speaking; secrets and spirits weave through a wondrous story. An exciting debut novel.”

-Jamila Gavin, author of the Whitbread Award-winner Coram Boy


“Thoughtful and introspective about the dynamics of a grieving family . . . contemplative readers will be rewarded by Jewel’s journey.”

– Booklist, December 2013


“Jewel is a multilayered, emotional character . . . . The mixture of superstition and science creates a wonderful juxtaposition in this powerful story about loss and moving on.”

– School Library Journal, January 2014


“The voice of 12-year-old Jewel carries readers through this lyrical and buoyant debut from Crystal Chan. . . . Chan’s strong characterizations and her way with words make her a writer to watch.”

– Shelf Awareness, 2014



4/27/2017 – Starved Rock Reading Council  (Starved Rock)

2/28/2017 – Middle School Visit

1/29/2017 – Middle School LitFest (Evanston Public Library)

12/3/2016 – Literary Salon with Betsy Bird (Evanston Public Library)

10/20-22, 2016 – Youth Literature Festival of Illinois (Central Illinois)

10/7-9, 2016 – Iowa City Book Festival (Iowa City, IA)

9/29-10/1, 2016 – Illinois Reading Council (Peoria, IL)

9/17/2016 – SCBWI-Southlands IL event: Beyond Being “unique”: A Mixed-Race Author In a Monoracial World (Mokena, IL)

4/1-3, 2016 – Illinois Reads 2016 (Mt. Sterling, IL)

3/31/2016 – Live radio interview on the Mary Griffith Show

3/16-19, 2016 – Waterstones Children’s Book Prize (London, UK)

2/20/2016 – Anderson’s Breakfast (Naperville)

10/24/2015 – Wisconsin State Book Festival presentation (Madison)

10/23/2015 – Wisconsin State Book Festival presentation (Madison)

10/3/2015 – Illinois Reading Council presentation (Peoria, IL)

6/13/2015 – Women and Children’s First Bookshop mothers and daughters’ workshop (Chicago)

6/6/2015 – Bird wins the Wisconsin Library Association’s 2015 Elizabeth Burr/Worzalla Award

6/7/2015 – Printers’ Row (Chicago)

5/8/2015 – Delivering the keynote speech for DePaul University’s English Conference (Chicago, IL, 6pm)

5/1/2015 – Receiving award from Society of Midland Writers (Chicago)

4/24/2015 – School visits and Lawrence University meet-and-greet for the Fox Cities Book Festival (Appleton, WI)

4/23/2015 – School visit and public lecture at the Fox Cities Book Festival (Appleton, WI)

4/16/2015 – College presentations at Lewis and Clark Community College (Alton, IL)

4/10/2015 – Middle school visit

2/26/2015 – Middle school visit

2/12/2015 – Middle school visit

1/28/2015 – The Cooperative Children’s Book Center has made Bird one of its top choices for 2015.

1/23/2015 – Diversity panel talk at 57th Street Books (Chicago), 6:30-8pm

8/20/2014 – Bird was featured alongside Judy Blume on the #WeNeedDiverseBooks website.

4/17/2014 – The Smithsonian gave Bird a great review.

4/12/2014 – Bird was featured in The Guardian‘s list for fiction for older readers!

1/31/2014 – Crystal Chan’s article, My mixed race childhood in the Midwest, was published by The Guardian, one of the UK’s *national* newspapers! Read it here.

1/1/2014 – Bird is making its way around the world! Currently, the book has sold to Text Publishing (Australia); Random House UK (United Kingdom); Intrinseca (Brazil); Magellan (Germany); Kluitman (Netherlands); Helium (France), RAO Publishing (Romania), Epsilon Yayinevi (Turkey), and Alternative Culture Press (Korea).

Bird is out on audio book in the U.S. through Listening Library, and Amandla Stenberg, who played Rue in the Hunger Games, is narrating!