Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Review: Wild Wings By Gill Lewis
Please note, I have not been paid or compensated in any way for this review.  This is a review of a library book my daughter and I checked out for some summer reading.  That being said, let's get on with it.

For the past couple of weeks my daughter and I have been reading Wild Wings by Gill Lewis.  We had gone to the children's section of the library looking for books to keep her occupied, and I wasn't in the market for a new novel to read to her because we were already in the middle of the BFG.  But I saw Wild Wings poking out a little at the end of a shelf and pulled it out.  I'm glad I did.  The plot looked interesting: a boy named Callum and his friend, a girl named Iona find that an Osprey, an endangered bird is nesting on Callum's farm in Scotland.  It's up to them to keep this bird a secret so that no one tries to kill the bird or steal her eggs.  We checked the book out and started reading.  There was so much more going on in this book than the description let on.  It's a coming of age story about Callum and the struggles he faces when his two best friends Rob and Euan don't approve of his new friend Iona, a poor girl caught stealing a fish from the lake on Callum's farm.  Calum has to choose to make fun of Iona so his class and other friends don't think he's crazy, or to choose between his friends.  The story highlights these very real struggles that children deal with.

As the story went on, we found ourselves crying at a tragedy that took place, and as Callum had to learn to deal with grief, and then found our spirits picked back up again when Callum made another new friend, a friend in a far away country.  Callum's spirit also dips and soars with the Osprey he has sworn to protect and keep secret from the world.  He and his friends track the Osprey via a tracker on Google Earth daily, and when the Osprey doesn't move for several days in Africa, they know something is wrong, and reach out to a child in Africa to help find and save the Osprey.  While their pen-pal friendship revolves around the Osprey at first, Callum and his friends soon learn that the girl in Africa they've been communicating with is in the hospital and might have to have her legs amputated because the hospital doesn't have the tools and the doctors don't have the experience needed to operate to save her legs.  This is where the story takes another surprising turn.  Callum and his friends decide to give up their life savings and organize a fund raiser to fly her to Britain to get the surgery she needs.  Their entire village comes together, and one of Callum's friends even sells his prized possession, demonstrating self sacrifice, to help someone else in need.

The description of the book makes it sound like it's just about protecting the Osprey, but we found the book to be so much more than that.  It's about friendship, looking past what's on the outside of a person, looking past your own misconceptions of someone, difficult choices, loss, resolve, renewal, conservation, tending to God's creatures, self sacrifice, kindness, and joy.  I give this book 10/10.  My daughter is only 6, and while we had to read it in smaller pieces because her attention span is shorter, she enjoyed it.  As a parent I enjoyed it too and found myself wanting to not put it down when she was ready to be finished reading for the day.  I think it's a great novel and older students in middle and high school would enjoy it as well as children in grade school.

The book also gives a lot of factual details about Ospreys in an interesting way and I think that reading this book would be a great introduction for a unit about Ospreys.  In the last few pages of the book they list many great informational websites about Ospreys that could be a good jumping off place to get kids more involved in learning about these endangered birds.  When we went back to the library the other day, my daughter begged me to help her find books about ospreys, and I'm glad that her interest is peaked and she wants to learn more.
Wild Wings by Gill Lewis gets 10/10 stars.  I hope you'll pick up a copy at your bookstore or local library.  If you do, let us know what you think of the book in a comment below.

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