In The Eagle Huntress, a thirteen-year-old Kazakh girl named Aisholpan Nurgaiv tells the story of her journey to become the first female eagle huntress in Mongolia. It was written with Liz Welch, author of The New York Times bestseller, I Will Always Write Back. She traveled to Mongolia to write this book. The Eagle Huntress begins the day before Aisholpan was born and introduces her family’s nomadic life, moving their animals, depending on seasons, through the Altai Mountains of western Mongolia. Kazakh people lived under Communism from 1924 to 1989, when their cultural practices, including eagle hunting and nomadic life, were outlawed.
For centuries, Aisholpan’s Kazakh tribe has hunted for food and fur with the assistance of the eagles they train. Eagle hunting is a tradition passed down from father to son. There has not been even one female eagle hunter in twelve generations of Aisholpan’s family. Since she was small, Aisholpan had always been interested in eagle hunting, like her grandfather and father had done. Although some men in her tribe were skeptical that a girl could be an eagle hunter, her father believed that a girl could do anything that a boy can do. He could see that eagle hunting was in Aisholpan’s blood. As her staunchest supporter, he trained Aisholpan to make her dream come true.
Aisholpan learned how to care for and train her own eagle, White Feather, with determination, perseverance, and bravery, no matter how challenging. In 2014, Aisholpan won the Golden Eagle Festival, one of the most prestigious eagle hunting competitions in Mongolia. She was the only female to compete at the festival. Since then, her victory has inspired many Mongolian girls who are motivated to become eagle huntresses like Aisholpan, and have also participated in the competition.
The Eagle Huntress contains beautiful photographs of Aisholpan and her family with the eagles, as well as her trips to film festivals in the United States and Dubai with her parents. Further readings are included in the backmatter, providing readers with an opportunity to explore Kazakh culture, traditions, and language.
The Eagle Huntress is an inspiring and empowering story for all ages. In 2021, it received the Notable Books for a Global Society Award. Aisholpan’s story was originally produced as a film with the same title, The Eagle Huntress. It is an award-winning documentary released in 2016. I highly recommend watching the film. It captures the breathtaking scenery of the Altai Mountains and the nomadic lifestyle of Aisholpan’s family. The film showcases thrilling moments of the eagle hunting competition and the most unforgettable moment when Aisholpan wins first prize. –Recommended by Junko Sakoi, Professional Development/Multicultural Integration Coordinator, Tucson Unified School District
Title: The Eagle Huntress
Author: Aisholpan Nurgaiv with Liz Welch
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
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