By Guest Blogger Dudley Carlson
not fully fledged when his mother is struck by a passing vehicle, leaving him to learn on his own. The girl, Maureen, has been transplanted to live with a great-aunt she has never met, who happens to be a veterinarian and uses falconry to train young hawks to hunt, increasing their chances of survival.
When Maureen helps her aunt Beatrice set a hawk trap, they accidentally capture Second, and Maureen is immediately fascinated by the owl. As she learns about owls and falconry, Second learns about humans from the Red-tailed Hawk that Beatrice is rehabilitating. Gradually, both owl and girl work their way toward strength and new knowledge, unaware of the greater challenges they’re both about to face.
There’s a lot of solid information about owls and falconry folded into a story that is also about growing up under difficult circumstances. Maureen’s mother has been hospitalized with mental illness, and though she recovers and returns home, her daughter is always prepared for a relapse and the upheaval it brings. Moving to a new school also means beginning again without friends and explaining why she doesn’t live with her parents. Second gains confidence as he learns in a protected environment, and his growing relationship to Maureen brings solace to both of them. In a time when so many children are troubled, it’s encouraging to find a story that combines growth and learning with warmth and comfort. And this very contemporary story may lead readers back to Mowat’s Owls in the Family, Jean George’s There’s an Owl in the Shower, and eventually to T. H. White’s The Goshawk, as well as to information books on owls.
SFBBO member Dudley Carlson, a biologist’s daughter, grew up in a family of birders and was Manager of Youth Services at Princeton (NJ) Public Library for 25 years. She believes that if children enjoy learning about birds and understand how important they are to our environment, then birds, nature and people will have a better chance at a healthy future. You can see all of Dudley's book recommendations here.
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