Fly, Eagle, Fly! An African Tale – Perfect Picture Book Friday

afrTitle: Fly, Eagle, Fly! An African Tale

Retold by Christopher Gregorowski

Pictures by Niki Daly

Foreword by Desmond Tutu

Published by Margaret McElderry Books, 2000

Ages: 5-8

Themes: parables, eagles, freedom

Quote, page 10: 

He climbed up a gully in case the calf had huddled there to escape the storm. And that was where he stopped. For there, on the ledge of rock, close enough to touch, he saw the most unusual sight – an eagle chick, very young, hatched from its egg a day or two before and then blown from its nest by the terrible storm. 

Synopsis:

This is the retelling of a subsaharan parable, attributed to the nation of Ghana by James Kwegyir Aggrey, probably the first person to write the story down. It is the story of an eagle raised as a chicken, who rediscovers his true identity.

A farmer’s calf strays in a storm and the farmer sets out the next day to search for it, but instead of finding his calf (who eventually makes his own way home) he discovers a lost eaglet, which he brings home. He and his family raise the eagle with the chickens.

One day a friend of the farmer’s visits and is perturbed to see the king of the birds being raised as a chicken. He tells the farmer that the bird should be flying high in the sky. After two failed attempts, with the farmer convinced that there is just too much chicken in the eagle now, the friend begs for a third chance. They take the eagle out into the mountains and onto a ledge. As the sun fills the morning sky, the friend cries out, “Fly, eagle, fly!” The eagle stretches its wings and catches a powerful thermal soaring into the golden sky.

Why I like this book:

The author wrote this book when his young daughter, Rosalind, aged seven was terminally ill. He dedicated it to her and he hoped it would help her see that the Spirit could lift us above our circumstances like “the wind-borne flight of an eagle.” It is a story to empower the oppressed with the knowledge that no child/adult is a chicken, but all are majestic eagles able to soar the heavens. The illustrations capture beautifully Transkei life with its simplicity,  color and humor. The first edition was published in 1982 in South Africa with just two colors and a few years later went out of print! It was picked up by the McElderry imprint almost two decades later and rebirthed in full color! It is a story that is both moving and humorous.  A great multicultural book conveying themes of self-esteem, cultural pride, and confidence aimed at older elementary children, who will be able to discern the parable’s message.

Activities/Resources:

The story leads well into a discussion of its message and the form of the parable in storytelling.

I found a great site of parables related to science for upper elementary students, at thegreatstory.org/parables

Every Friday, authors and Kidlit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the perfect picture books with resources, please visit Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

 

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12 Responses to Fly, Eagle, Fly! An African Tale – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Lovely that you’ve called out this book. I so enjoyed editing this book – such a special and beautiful collaboration!

  2. I really enjoyed reading your review. I used to write about the endangered bald eagles in Ohio, so this story interests me. And it is a beautiful multicultural story with such a lovely message. My eyes teared when I read why the author wrote the book. Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Joanna says:

    It is a book with several layers of meaning, Pat!

  4. Oh, wow, Joanna. This book sounds beautiful and moving and powerful. I love stories like this, and I think they give so much to kids. Thank you for sharing this one and adding it to our list. I will have to go find a copy immediately!

  5. Even if we aren’t raised with them, I believe there’s a dose of chicken in all of us and this looks like a beautiful reminder to spread our wings and fly. A message for all ages. 🙂

  6. This book has many elements that appeal to me: fable, birds, and a different culture! I’m so glad you found it and shared it with us, Joanna.

  7. What a wonderful story… with so many ways to understand it. Every year I watch the red-tailed hawks hatch out and, in time, take to their wings on the Cornell bird cam. Every year there’s one chick we’re all rooting for: fly little hawk, fly! So now I must read this story…

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