The Children's Book Compass

Memorable Novel

Posted on: August 16, 2011

Wild Wings by Gill Lewis.  Illus. by Yuta Onoda.  (2011). 287 pages.  Atheneum.  Grades 4-8. Novel/Realistic Fiction.

Wild Wings is the best novel for young people I have read this year.  It is a captivating and memorable read.  Callum thinks he knows everything about his family’s farm nestled in the hills and valleys of Scotland.  Then he meets Iona, a new girl from the village, who shares a secret about a discovery she has made.  Two osprey are nesting near the loch on the farm.  Osprey are rare and haven’t nested on the farm for more than a hundred years.  Callum and Iona keep the news about the osprey secret until the female is hurt, hanging upside down, tangled and caught in a fishing line.  Then the children ask Callum’s Dad to call for help from a nearby nature preserve.  Hamish comes and is able to free the osprey and examine her.  When Callum sees the female up close he is awestruck, “Nothing prepared me for seeing her right in front of me.  It was as if the lochs and the mountains and the sky were folded deep inside of her as if she was a small piece of this vast landscape and none of it could exist without her.”  Before he frees her to go back to her eggs in the nest, Hamish fits the osprey with a satellite transmitter.  He says that now they will be able to track her position, tell how high she is flying and how fast.  Best of all they “can follow her journey all the way to Africa and back.”  Hamish gives the children a special code for their computer that will plot her journey on Goggle Earth.  Hamish also cautions the children to keep the nest a secret.  “Some people pay thousands to get their hands on osprey eggs.”  Callum begins a record of the osprey.  Eventually, the children follow the female’s flight to Gambia in Africa.  When the osprey appears to be lost, Callum sends many e-mail message to the area where her transmission stopped, asking for help in locating her.  A girl, Jeneba, answers and the people in her village take their boats to search for the bird.  The bird is found and helped.  The e-mail messages between Callum and Jeneba enrich the story.

There are many layers to this story.  Lewis skillfully weaves several themes into her story.  The main theme is the value of taking care of the environment.  Another theme is friendship.  Lewis also shows the value of community and family by creating well drawn, realistic characters that support Callum in his efforts to help the osprey and Jeneba.

In a note to the reader at the end of the book readers are invited to connect with Lewis “as she travels to Scotland to assist in the tagging of the 2011 osprey chicks and see conservational research in action.  Readers will be able to follow her “osprey blog-and the journey of these tagged birds-on her websites …”  http://ospreydiary.blogspot.com/  This book makes an excellent read-aloud and children can learn more about the osprey on Lewis’s blog.  A few black line drawings are sprinkled throughout the story.  Please note the book is titled Sky Hawk in the UK.

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