The best middle grade fiction about The Thing with Feathers

Tricia Springstubb Author Of The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe
By Tricia Springstubb

Who am I?

I’ve written books for kids of all ages, and always there were birds. Sparrows singing on windowsills, cardinals arrowing across yards, cormorants diving into Lake Erie, pigeons poking beneath park benches. Those things with feathers make my own heart sing!  Slowly it dawned on me that I wanted to write a book where birds didn’t just flit across the pages but nested at the story’s heart. I had to do a lot of bird research for Perfect. What I learned about the precious, fragile bonds among all Earth’s creatures became one of the book’s themes: big and small, bound by gravity or able to defy it, we are all deeply connected. 

I wrote...

The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe

By Tricia Springstubb,

Book cover of The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe

What is my book about?

Loah Londonderry loves her mother, a fearless ornithologist who named Loah for a bird long feared extinct. She also loves her home, even though other kids consider the old house spooky. When Dr. Londonderry finds evidence the Loah bird still exists, she sets off on a perilous solo quest, leaving Loah behind with aged caretakers. When they both fall ill, Loah is really alone in a house where, even she’s got to admit, some spooky stuff has started going on. And then – Dr. Londonderry’s expedition goes awry.

With the two things she loves best in the world – her mother and her home – in danger, what is Loah to do? And what is the most perfect thing in the universe, anyway?

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why


By Carl Hiaasen,

Book cover of Hoot

Why did I love this book?

Because…burrowing owls! Because…the power of kids to make a difference!

Hiassen’s story (a Newbery honor) brims with love and awe for Florida’s natural world, including these adorable owls who live underground and stand maybe six inches tall. When greedy developers threaten their dens, our hero Roy teams up with a supernaturally strong girl and her slightly feral brother to save them.

I love this book for its unshakeable belief in kids, who know injustice when they see it, for how it handles serious topics with a deft and witty touch, and for how it made me think of Florida in new ways. A hoot for sure! 

By Carl Hiaasen,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Hoot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This Newbery Honor winner and #1 New York Times bestseller is a beloved modern classic. Hoot features a new kid and his new bully, alligators, some burrowing owls, a renegade eco-avenger, and several extremely poisonous snakes.

Everybody loves Mother Paula's pancakes. Everybody, that is, except the colony of cute but endangered owls that live on the building site of the new restaurant. Can the awkward new kid and his feral friend prank the pancake people out of town? Or is the owls' fate cemented in pancake batter?

Welcome to Carl Hiaasen's Florida—where the creatures are wild and the people are…

One Came Home

By Amy Timberlake,

Book cover of One Came Home

Why did I love this book?

Because…I love language, and Timberlake spins out one gorgeous sentence after another.

Set in 1871, the story follows Georgie Burkhardt as she tracks her big sister, who’s run away with “pigeoners”, a seedy bunch who follow the migration of passenger pigeons (which once existed in the millions but were hunted to extinction). Georgie’s voice is tough, funny, and wildly original, just like the West itself.

There’s plenty of mystery and suspense, but for me, it’s about the language! Here’s the glorious ending: “I say let all the world be alive and overwhelmingly so. Let the sky be pressed to bursting with wings, beaks, pumping hearts and driving muscles. Let it be noisy. Let it be a mess. Then let me find my allotted space. Let me feel how I bump up against every other living thing on this earth.”

By Amy Timberlake,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked One Came Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Newbery Honor Book

An ALA-ALSC Notable Children's Book

Winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Juvenile Novel

“An adventure, a mystery, and a love song to the natural world. . . . Run out and read it. Right now.”—Newbery Medalist Karen Cushman

In the town of Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871, Georgie Burkhardt is known for two things: her uncanny aim with a rifle and her habit of speaking her mind plainly.

But when Georgie blurts out something she shouldn't, her older sister Agatha flees, running off with a pack of "pigeoners" trailing the passenger pigeon migration. And…

Across the Pond

By Joy McCullough,

Book cover of Across the Pond

Why did I love this book?

Because…I relish quiet books that sneak up on me. This one starts out slowly, with shy Callie and her family moving into an inherited (and decrepit) Scottish castle.

No ghosts, but a journal left behind by a girl who once lived there sparks Callie’s interest in “twitching”, Scottish for bird-watching. As Callie discovers the wonders of birds, she also discovers herself and the new friends who become her flock. The story nods at how hard it (still) is for women to command the same respect as men, and it will definitely have readers looking for videos on “murmuration”.

A perfect book to curl up with at bedtime.

By Joy McCullough,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Across the Pond as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of A Field Guide to Getting Lost comes a heartwarming, “emotionally perceptive” (Kirkus Reviews) story about new beginnings, burgeoning friendships, and finding your flock.

Callie can’t wait for her new life to start. After a major friendship breakup in San Diego, moving overseas to Scotland gives her the perfect chance to reinvent herself. On top of that, she’s going to live in a real-life castle!

But as romantic as life in a castle sounds, the reality is a little less comfortable: it’s run-down, freezing, and crawling with critters. Plus, starting off on the wrong foot with the…

Three Pennies

By Melanie Crowder,

Book cover of Three Pennies

Why did I love this book?

Because…I adore multiple points of view. Here we get Marin, a foster child seeking clues to her past through the  I Ching; a beleaguered but loveable social worker; a woman longing for a child; an orphaned owl out of his element in the city; and the Earth herself. 

My favorite is Owl, who knows what it is to be abandoned and sees Marin as a hatchling he needs to protect. This is a short book with very brief chapters, but Crowder fills it with the wisdom of the ages (or is it the wisdom of owls?) I especially love how beautifully she handles friendship between generations and species.

By Melanie Crowder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Three Pennies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A girl in foster care tries to find her birth mother before she loses her forever in this spare and beautifully told novel about last chances and new opportunities.

For a kid bouncing from foster home to foster home, The Book of Changes is the perfect companion. That’s why Marin carries three pennies and a pocket-sized I Ching with her everywhere she goes. Yet when everything in her life suddenly starts changing—when Marin lands in a foster home that feels like somewhere she could stay, maybe forever—the pennies don’t have any answers for her.

Marin is positive that all the…

Rare Birds

By Jeff Miller,

Book cover of Rare Birds

Why did I love this book?

Because…the ending is amazing! Well, not only the ending, but wow, the ending.

Many middle grade novels deal with loss and grief, but none better than this one, with a catharsis that’s totally organic and fully earned. Inspired by Miller’s experience of his own mother’s heart transplant, this coming-of-age story follows Graham in his quest to spot the Snail Kite, an elusive bird his ill mother has always wanted to see.

Family and friendship are at the heart of the story, but along the way, readers learn lots of tantalizing truths about birds, those symbols of hope and promise.  

By Jeff Miller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rare Birds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jeff Miller's heartbreaking, coming-of-age middle-grade novel-inspired by his personal experience living through his own parent's heart transplant-invites readers into the world of a twelve-year-old birdwatcher looking for a place to call home and a way to save his mother, even if it means venturing deep into Florida swampland.

Twelve-year-old Graham Dodds is no stranger to hospital waiting rooms. Sometimes, he feels like his entire life is one big waiting room. Waiting for the next doctor to tell them what's wrong with his mom. Waiting to find out what city they're moving to next. Waiting to see if they will finally…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in foster care, Wisconsin, and Scotland?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about foster care, Wisconsin, and Scotland.

Foster Care Explore 49 books about foster care
Wisconsin Explore 49 books about Wisconsin
Scotland Explore 298 books about Scotland