Compulsion rules Collin's life.
He can't stop himself from counting the number of letters in words spoken to him. Nor can he stop himself from announcing those totals to the speaker. If he tries to stop, he becomes overwhelmed.
In "The Brave" by James Bird, life has been extremely difficult for Collin because of his struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder. He has been raised first by his grandparents and then his father, but his OCD has made him too much for either to handle. His grandparents gave up on him very early on, and now his father has finally reached the end of his ability to cope.
One final altercation with bullies at school sends Collin to the family he never knew he had or needed.
Collin has never met his mother and knows very little about her. She lives on the Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota, and his family there seems to take his counting in stride. While some children at his new school do make fun of him, most do not after learning who his older brother was.
Collin's brother Aji was a beloved member of the community. Collin finds the same acceptance in the community that Aji did. While we learn Aji is physically no longer with them, his spirit remains and helps Collin on his journey.
His new neighbor, Orenda, becomes the heart of this story as she claims the heart of Collin. She believes she is changing into a butterfly as her mother did but refuses to tell Collin why. Orenda pushes Collin to learn new strategies for coping with his problems and helps him learn the wisdom necessary to accept himself. She introduces him to the brother he never knew through these strategies.
As a result, Collin becomes stronger not just physically, but emotionally, as he embraces his new family, his home and the truth of Orenda's transformation.
This powerful coming-of-age story is filled with heart and courage as both Collin and Orenda go through the changes necessary to continue their journeys. The magical elements and the Ojibwe culture are seamlessly interwoven throughout the narrative and add an otherworldly quality to the story. Author James Bird is of Ojibwe descent.
This is a fantastic #OwnVoices story that can be enjoyed by readers of any age.
Angie Bayne is the children's services manager at Missouri River Regional Library.