Rockstar Tours: Rare Birds (Jeff Miller), Excerpt, Interview, & Giveaway! ~US ONLY

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the RARE BIRDS by Jeff Miller Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!


About The Book:


Author: Jeff Miller

Pub. Date: January 31, 2023

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 288

Find it: Goodreads   

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 get their
miracle—a heart transplant to save his mom’s life.

When Graham gets stuck in Florida for the summer, he meets a girl named Lou at
the hospital, and he finds a friend who needs a distraction as much as he does.
She tells him about a contest to find the endangered Snail Kite, which resides
in the local gator-filled swamps. Together they embark on an adventure,
searching for the rare bird . . . and along the way, Graham might just find
something else—himself.

Jeff Miller crafts a heartfelt story about what it means to live in this
unforgettable middle-grade novel. Rare Birds is a rare find
that will resonate with fans of the Carl Hiassen’s Hoot and
Melissa Savage’s Lemon. For readers looking for novels with
literary appeal and classic themes of family, friendship, and the meaning of
life, Rare Birds is a perfect pick.  


My Waiting Room


I can be sitting here in seat 25A of this airplane, surrounded by strangers and my mom, and if I close my eyes, I can be transported to a totally different place.

In a split second I can go somewhere breathtaking, like the top of the world’s tallest mountain. Or the sandy, sunburnt valley of the hottest desert. Or … Buffalo, New York! Where my favorite restaurant of all time serves the world’s best broccoli cheddar soup bread bowl. Brains even allow you to go to each amazing spot all at once. I can see myself now, up on top of the tallest mountain … overlooking the planet’s hottest desert … lounging in a hot-tub sized bread bowl.

Okay, okay, the soup part would be gross, but you get the idea.

The truth is, even though my brain could take me magical places, it spends most of its time in one place. I call it My Waiting Room.


I come here whenever I’m feeling not-quite-bored and not-quite-lonely and not-quite-sad. It’s the place my imagination carries me to whenever I’m feeling … “in between,” which is a lot these days.

Now that you’re here with me, let me show you around.

In many ways My Waiting Room is just like one you’d find in every other hospital: It has the same vending machines filled with old candy nobody ever buys, the same uncomfortable chairs that constantly wobble, and the same stacks of old magazines. Oh, and there’s a TV that never plays anything good.

There are also two doors.

Behind one door is a miracle. And behind the other door is a disaster.

A disastrous disaster.

That’s the crummy thing about hospital waiting rooms: you’re only ever in them to see which type of news you’re about to get. Either way your life is going to be changed forever. My job is to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And waaaiiittt.

And let me tell you, it’s not easy to wait to see if your mom is going to live or die.

I feel my ears begin to adjust to a change in pressure, so I open my eyes. I’m back in seat 25A, flying from Buffalo to Miami. Like I said, brains are weird.


Next Destination


My stomach lurches looking out the window as we make a wide turn over the glimmering ocean. Swamps and houses and swimming pools grow closer until I can almost make out the ant-size people lounging around them.

“Local time in Miami is 7:52 p.m. on this first day of June, with a temperature of eighty-eight degrees. Now we know y’all can choose anyone to fly with, so from everyone on the flight crew—”

“Thank you for flying with us, and we’ll see you next time,” I say along with the pilot.

I’ve pretty much got the whole boarding and deboarding routine memorized start to finish. Sometimes the flight crew will give suggestions about where to go in your new destination, too. In Buffalo, they tell you the best places to order chicken wings. In Seattle, it’s the best place to get a fresh fish thrown at you really, really hard. Everything else stays the same, though.

My mom nudges me with her elbow. She points out the window at the beach below. It looks just like the pictures I’ve seen on my mapping app—a road of sand and sunshine that runs the length of Florida, blue water practically lapping at its shoreline. I can almost see the sunburns and drinks with frilly umbrellas.

“Is that mini-golf course you worked at down there somewhere?” I ask, peering down at the road dotted with beaches.

“Oh, I think they tore that down a while ago. I bet it’s a restaurant or a doctor’s office now,” she replies, leaning back into her seat. “Those summers were the best. Me and Dom would spend twenty bucks on arcade games trying to win fake sunglasses. We called them Roy-Bons,” Mom says with a chuckle.

The plane makes a sharp turn and my stomach drops.

“And who exactly is Dom again?” I say, turning to her. “I usually like to know a guy before hopping in his van. Can never be too careful.”

Mom laughs, pulling her hair to one side.

“You’ll love him. We grew up together here in Sugarland.”

The landing gear unfolds and the plane touches down with a few soft bounces. This is officially the fourth city we’ve been to since my tenth birthday, the day it all started.

We were in Chicago when we rushed to the hospital in the back of an ambulance, my ice cream cake still in the freezer. It was the first time I saw her like that, scared and surrounded by wires and machines. From Chicago we went to Seattle, then Minneapolis for, like, three months. And finally to Buffalo, for most of last year, which was actually cool. Mom and I both made friends there, which made it harder to leave.

Each new place is exactly the same, with new doctors and surgeons and hospital officials saying they have got the answer to all our problems. Well, my mom’s problems. I’m just along for the ride.

They’ve always got the best doctors or the newest hospitals or most cutting-edge treatments. Only none of them have worked. After all this moving around, we’re still no closer to a cure. So far, we only have a diagnosis: dilated cardiomyopathy. (It took a while to learn how to spell it.)

Basically, it’s where somebody’s heart gets very sick and can barely do what it needs to do to keep them alive. Then, when it’s too tired, it starts beating out of control. Like, so out of control that it could kill you.

The only way to stop that is to blast somebody in the chest with those paddles you see on TV shows. My mom has a device inside of her that does the blasting, so she doesn’t need somebody standing around shouting “clear!

But the doctors down here in Florida? They say they’ve got an answer. They say that since her heart is failing, she needs a new one—a transplant—and that it’s our only option left.

This time I might believe them. Because if a new heart won’t fix my mom, I don’t know what will.

Mom says once we leave here, and she’s all better, we can finally go home—whichever home we want that to be. (I want it to be Buffalo.)

“Here we go, G,” says Mom as the airplane crawls to a stop on the runway. “It all happens for a reason.”

I slip my hand into my mom’s and squeeze it.




About Jeff Miller:

Jeff Miller is a middle-grade author and former camp counselor originally
from Kent, Ohio. He loves snow, coffee, and visiting schools to connect with
young readers. His mom, a 2018 heart transplant recipient, has always inspired
him to face life with humor and heart. He currently lives in Chicago, where he
keeps asking his cats for writing advice.

Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub


 Author Interview:

  1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

I think my inspiration was the hope that I might be able to create a story for people going through a tough time. While RARE BIRDS isn’t my exact story, it is definitely formed from my own life experiences.
I’m grateful and lucky to say that my mom received a heart transplant in 2018, but before that it was a long and winding road filled with lots of uncertainty. As you go along you have a lot of questions that can’t really be answered, and I think it would’ve been helpful – for me at least – to read about a character going through something similar.
So, RARE BIRDS is my attempt at creating something for anyone that might be feeling the same way or asking the same questions.
While what I’ve been through might not be the same thing other folks are currently experiencing, I hope that anyone going through the twists and turns of life might find some aspect of the story helpful.

  1. Who is your favorite character in the book?

I love them all, but Lou is probably my favorite character.

  1. Which came first, the title or the novel?

The title. With any story there are a great many drafts that look very different from the finished product, so the story has shifted some but the title was set in stone very early on.

  1. What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

Without spoiling anything, probably the hospital scenes.
As a tween trying to grapple with a parent’s chronic illness, I basically became very fearful of hospitals. I hated them. My heart would instantly start racing, and I could physically feel my panic and anxiety spiking.
But you can’t just run away from problems, or life, right? Avoiding something doesn’t make it go away…you have to face it.
And so I think I’m most proud of those scenes, as I had to face down some once-scary memories and thoughts.

5.       Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?

Hm, that’s an interesting question!
I’d say I keep learning about the importance of being open to the editing process. It can be difficult, for certain, but critical to becoming the best version of yourself as an artist.
I remember times where I adamantly thought some aspect of a story had to be a certain way…and now I get the benefit of looking back and discovering how truly wrong I was, haha. It’s really helpful for me, being wrong.
I think being wrong is fine, normal, and a wonderfully human thing to do. Learning from mistakes and continuing on is the crucial part, though. At times it’s hard to not get disheartened or take some feedback too personally, but trusting the process and receiving feedback and pressing on will only make you a better writer.

  1. What do you like most about the cover of the book?

Answering ‘Everything!!’ kind of feels like cheating, but I would have to say I love it all. I’m incredibly grateful to Kimberly Glyder for such a stunning cover!
The design is beautiful and simple, so perhaps I like that most. Simplicity is something I strive for in my writing, so I feel lucky to have a cover that warmly welcomes you into Graham and Lou’s world.


  1. What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2023?

A few! I’m really looking forward to HANDS, by Torrey Maldonado. I have a soft spot for summertime stories, so I’m also excited for Gillian McDunn’s WHEN SEA BECOMES SKY, too. And in terms of YA graphic novels I’m ready for Jarrett J. Krosoczka to make me weep with SUNSHINE.

  1. What was your favorite book in 2022?

As an Ohioan I am biased, but I really loved A ROVER’S STORY by Jasmine Warga.

  1. What’s up next for you?

I’m working on my next novel now, but I’m really looking forward to visiting schools to talk with young readers about the power of stories.

I’m also excited for my book release event at Anderson’s Bookshop in Downer’s Grove with the wonderful Betsy Bird. I think it will be a great time for anyone in the Chicagoland area that might be interested in laughing, crying or amateur ornithology.  (


  1. Is there anything that you would like to add?

I became a writer to stay far, far away from math, so no haha.


  1. Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?

I’d say writing the final act of the book was pretty challenging. For me, a lot of writing is kind of slowly settling in to live in these deeper emotional places, and so for a little while writing was very somber and raw and not something I was exactly looking forward to.
I remember I was at a friend’s beautiful house in northern Wisconsin around the 4th of July – life was good, the sun was shining…and I had to go hide in a dark room to write a scene that nearly made me cry. Going to the dark places, both figuratively and literally, isn’t always easy but I feel proud for giving it a shot.

  1. Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?

I feel like Florida serves as its own character in this story, so perhaps Florida? What details do you leave in or leave out?! There’s far too many ‘I can’t believe that’s actually true’ things to think about!
Florida is…a very unique place.

  1. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?

Revising. Drafting is fun, and allows you the freedom to toss out a bunch of ideas to see what might work…but revising and distilling that into what you’re really trying to say is rewarding in a different kind of way.

  1. What would you say is your superpower?

Hoarding various forms of outdated media. I’m like Tony Stark if Tony Stark’s inventions were all VHS tapes featuring Keanu Reeves.

  1. Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?

My family is really passionate about organ and tissue donation, as a heart donor gave my mom a miracle gift. There are some fantastic non-profits that help promote the honor of being organ donors, like in Ohio, but I’d encourage everyone to look into what it takes to become an organ donor in their own state/country. It truly changes lives.

Thanks so much for your time and energy!
I’ve really appreciated getting the chance to talk about writing and RARE BIRDS!



Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a finished copy of RARE BIRDS, US Only.

Ends February 7th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:


Books Central

Guest Post/IG Post


for Insatiable Readers

Review/IG Post



Review/IG Post


Blue Box Full of Books

Review/IG Post



Review/IG Post

Week Two:



Review/IG Post



Review/IG Post



Review/IG Post



Review/IG Post



Review/IG Post


4 thoughts on “Rockstar Tours: Rare Birds (Jeff Miller), Excerpt, Interview, & Giveaway! ~US ONLY”

  1. ldittmer says:

    I would love to offer this in my library.

  2. JohannaB. says:

    This looks amazing!!

  3. This sounds so emotional.

  4. My daughter would love this story – she loves birds and stories of people overcoming challenges!

Comments are closed.