Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 12
- Grade: 8 to 12
- Reading age: 12
Sixteen-year-old Dylan has never met her father. She knows that her parents were just teenagers themselves when she was born, but her mother doesn't like to talk about the past, and her father, Mark, has never responded to Dylan's attempts to contact him. As far as Dylan is concerned, her family is made up of her mother, Amanda; her recently adopted younger sister, Karma; and maybe even her best friend, Toni.
And then, out of the blue, a phone call: Mark will be in town for a few days and he wants to meet her. Amanda is clearly upset, but Dylan can't help being excited at the possibility of finally getting to know her father. But when she finds out why he has come—and what he wants from her—the answers fill her with still more questions. What makes someone family? And why has her mother been lying to her all these years?
About the author
Robin Stevenson is the award-winning author of more than 25 books for kids and teens, including the board book Pride Colors, the picture book Ghost’s Journey: A Refugee Story and the nonfiction books Kid Activists and Pride: The Celebration and the Struggle. The first edition of her nonfiction book Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community (2016) won a Stonewall Honor and was shortlisted for numerous other awards. Robin lives in Victoria, British Columbia, where she attends Pride celebrations with her family every year, but always leaves her dog safely at home.
- Commended, Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year
- Commended, Junior Library Guild Selection
Excerpt: Hummingbird Heart (by (author) Robin Stevenson)
Mark pulled out his phone. "Her name's Casey. She's almost four." He looked at the image on the screen for a long moment, his mouth twisted into a crooked smile. "Your half sister."
I took the phone from him and stared at the photo. A round-faced girl, smiling, with short dark hair and big eyes. My stomach was full of something much squirmier than butterflies, and my throat was getting all tight.
"Must be hard to be away from her," Mom said.
"It is," Mark said. His voice sounded funny, like he really meant it. Like he could hardly stand to be away from his precious little girl.
I sucked on my bottom lip. He'd been away from me, his other daughter, for my whole life and he hadn't cared at all.
"A very valuable book because of the author's honesty in portraying the teen dynamics with friends and families...Highly recommended for inclusion in any high school or public library collection."
Tri State YA Book Review Committee
"Vividly descriptive language enriches the story...[and] a raw and honest tone runs through the novel...Teens will relate to the themes of family, love, trust, and moral obligation. Discussion of abortion, sex, teen pregnancy, alcoholism, underage drinking, and smoking marijuana are included, and under the surface this page-turner invites readers to reflect on decision-making and appreciate the fact that actions have deep consequences."
School Library Journal
"A beautifully told story...Dylan is not a perfect character, which makes her easily relatable for any teenager...Recommended for anyone who likes a good dramatic coming of age story."
"A well-written exploration of complex family relationships...Hummingbird Heart will appeal to teenagers who like realistic drama, and the novel may be useful to parents or teachers who want to start a discussion about teenage sex, pregnancy or drug use."
"Fast-paced and sure to keep readers interested...A perfect book for discussion and the topic will appeal to teen readers."
"Stevenson takes Hummingbird Heart from just a mirror of a young girl's attempt to understand others as well as herself to a piece of artwork, extensive and colourful, deep and enduring, of choices, wonderful or humiliating, like a tattoo, hummingbird or otherwise."
CanLit for Little Canadians blog
"The tension this creates between Dylan and her mother is brutal and realistic. Like many teens, Dylan has found emotional safety in keeping distant from others, judging before she can be judged. As Dylan comes out of her shell, she realizes her own power and responsibility in setting the terms of her relationships...Teens who were intrigued with the family drama in Sara Zarr's How to Save a Life (2011) or Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper (2004) will find similarly thought-provoking issues here."
"Stevenson captures the true spirit of Dylan's anger toward both her mother and her father, and the situation in which both parents have placed her...While the issues breeched in this novel are complex and deep, Hummingbird Heart remains an enjoyable read."
Southwest Ohio and Neighboring Libraries (SWON)
"A well-written story about a teenager being forced to confront questions about her past, her family, her relationships and her very identity. Dylan is a well-developed, realistic character and teens will be able to relate to her dilemma. Highly recommended."
A Gemini's Gems blog
Hummingbird HeartDylan’s 16th birthday heralds a tumultuous year with too many things to worry about and too many questions needing answers. Who is the mysterious “sperm donor” as her mother refers to him and why does he want to meet her now when he has never shown any interest before? Why is her best friend changing? Can she trust her boyfriend and how far should they go? The answers are elusive. Dylan struggles to come to terms with the lies her mother has told her, the idea of a new family, and how to approach life when we are all going to die. When she meets her half sister who needs a bone marrow transplant, Dylan realizes there are some things she needs to decide for herself.
Caution: Includes incidents of teenage drinking and driving and adults smoking pot.
Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. BC Books for BC Schools. 2012-2013.
Other titles by Robin Stevenson
True Tales of Childhood from Inventors and Trailblazers
The Celebration and the Struggle
A Refugee Story
My Body My Choice
The Fight for Abortion Rights
LGBTQ2 Writers on Coming Out and Into Canada