The Eagles Are Back – Book Recommendation

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Bald Eagle Portrait. Source Wikimedia Commons

Bald Eagle Portrait. Source Wikimedia Commons

As many of my blog followers know, I have very mixed feelings about the existence of zoos (click on zoos in the sidebar to see several posts I have written on the subject). I had heard good things about the Bronx Zoo and checked on the conservation program before I decided to visit last week. But my overall response was a deep sadness and reminder of why I haven’t been in well over a decade. The rodents that were awake (many are nocturnal) scurried and scampered cheerfully enough and a couple of brown bears were having fun playing together in their pool, but mainly I saw magnificent animals in tiny enclosures, their wild spirits crushed (my subjective stance, I know)  which broke my heart. In particular I had trouble not crying when I saw a majestic bald eagle regally poised on the branch of a small tree in an enclosure of a few square feet. I must have watched him for ten to fifteen minutes and he did not move. These birds have six foot plus wingspans and are created to soar and swoop. Eagles conserve energy by gliding in thermal wind currents achieving speeds of up to 50 mph and travelling up to 180 miles per day. Eagles have been measured at traveling 150 mph during a dive. The only legitimate reasons in my mind for animal captivity are, a) for rescue when they would otherwise die, and b) specific breeding programs for conservation.

I am getting off my little soapbox to review a book that I had put on hold at the library before I decided on my spontaneous zoo visit. It’s a gem!

eaglesTitle: The Eagles are Back

Written by Jean Craighead George

Illustrated by Wendell Minor

Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012

Ages: 6-9

Themes: The Bald Eagle, conservation, adoption, DDT, collaboration

Opening Lines:

Years ago a boy climbed to an eagle nest in an old tree by a remote lake. The nest belonged to a pair of eagles he had named Uncle Sam and First Lady. He had not seen them here for a while.

Synopsis:  This is a book that celebrates the prospering of a species that was highly threatened in North America during the rapid increase of damaging pesticides in agriculture during the 20th century. This story is narrated through the eyes of a young boy, emphasizing how children can make a real difference in the world. A boy climbs high up a tree to a bald eagle nest, and notices that the two eggs in the nest are cracked.  He knows this pair well and also that not long ago 450 pairs of bald eagles survived in the wild because of the impact of the pesticide DDT making the eagles’ eggs soft and fragile.  The boy meets with a ranger who is hoping that this nesting pair may adopt an eagle egg he has from Alaska.  The boy agrees to keep an eye on the pair and see whether they accept the egg because the ranger needs to head back to other parks.  The boy keeps watch and sees the eagles adopt the egg, first the male and then the female! Not only does he keep a watchful eye on the nest but he also helps by catching fish and tossing them to the eagles to feed their baby.  The eaglet grows and thrives and finally takes her first wobbly flight.

Why I like this book: Craighead George adds many details and facts about the threats to these regal birds, their history in the US and especially the devastation that DDT caused on their numbers.  I smiled at the boy naming the pair, Uncle Sam and First Lady. Craighead George specializes in writing about nature and the environment and always reveals the beauty and wonder of the wilderness, enticing young readers to do their own exploring.

Telling the story through the eyes of a young boy, emphasizes how children can make a real difference in their world. It is also is a story about collaboration, between a ranger and a young boy. Conservation projects are almost never done in isolation by individuals, but are rather wonderful group efforts across borders.

Landscape artist, Wendell Minor’s paintings in this book reflect the beauty and majesty of this species and its habitat.  In gouache and watercolor, he creates vivid natural scenes that are authentic and inviting.  He plays with the lighting on each page and the skies are heavenly.

This is a beautiful addition to my books on conservation and endangered species. It is the third book in the new Craighead George/Minor nature series. Don’t miss the first two about wolves and buffalo.



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16 Responses to The Eagles Are Back – Book Recommendation

  1. Joanna, I love your choice. I know how much compassion you feel for animals in a zoo. It must have been hard to see that eagle in a confined cage. I have a love for eagles because I followed them in the 1970s along Lake Erie. They were declining because the DDT was creating thin egg shells. Wrote many feature stories about the bald eagles in Ohio. So, I hold a special place in my heart for the story you shared. It just might inspire one kid to be part of the solution! Great review.

  2. Darshana says:

    Beautifully written review. Thanks!

  3. Joanna says:

    Thanks, Darshana, this is a beautiful picture book.

  4. I didn’t know about DDT devastation.Thanks for the review and the awareness. My husband and I visited Marco Island, FL once years ago, and I’ll never forget seeing the eagles in a natural sanctuary setting. 🙂

  5. Tina Cho says:

    Beautiful book and story! Last year my kids and I watched via web cam for over a month as a pair of eagles in Iowa gave birth, and we watched how lovingly they took care of their babies. It was incredible and a wonderful learning experience.

    • Joanna says:

      What a great experience for the family, Tina. I keep forgetting there are some amazing wildlife webcams out there. Now, THEY, are a great way for kids to learn about and experience wildlife without detriment to the animals. Thanks for commenting!

  6. I wonder if the zoo would give Eagles bigger enclosures if enough people wrote to them. I’m pretty sure the ones I saw in Detroit were out in the open.

  7. I know why I like you so much in the short time we’ve become friends on 12×12: you and I feel the same way about so many things! I swear you are one of the few people I know (online or IRL) who feels that way about zoos too. I think we’ve brought the kids to the zoos once (possibly) twice in their 15-17 years of life. It really is sad to see them caged. My only exception is if they need to be in it for conservation efforts…to breed them if they’re on the brink of extinction, but even then, I prefer a private facility where they’re not paraded and caged unnaturally.

    And thank you for the reminder to read “Silent Spring.” I know so much about Rachel Carson’s book from other sources that it feels like I’ve read it and I haven’t. :}

    • Joanna says:

      Ah, Teresa, thank you for your supportive comments. I have visited some great safari parks, where animals really are in huge open spaces.

  8. Hey Joanna! So good to see you. This story in near and dear to my heart as we live on a farm in NC and this family has a special love for ALL the animals in the world. (Even that raccoon that killed two of our baby chickies.) So we have a trap that we can use to set him out far, far away. (He also got our cat. Thank goodness he’s still alive and well.) This story is absolutely beautiful! I must write it down so I can grab a copy at our bookstore. If they don’t have one they can order it.

    Eagles are so majestic. We have them here in NC. We can witness them flying overhead while trailriding.

    Thank you for mentioning Christopher. You’ll never know how much I smiled while reading your comment. (((hugs)))

    • Joanna says:

      Robyn, thanks so much for chiming in here. I shouldn’t be surprised that I have naturally connected with so many animal lovers/supporters in the blogosphere. I loved reading about your humane raccoon trap. Though very sorry to read about the chickies, but relieved the cat is ok!

  9. Cat Urbigkit says:

    Great review – I’m such a big fan of Wendell Minor’s beautiful art.

  10. Pingback: I know a Bear – Perfect Picture Book Friday | Miss Marple's Musings

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