Wild Wings

The majestic Osprey is an endangered bird that hasn’t been seen in Scotland for years, so when Iona McNair locates an Osprey nest, she’s desperate to keep the bird safe from poachers. She shares her secret with her classmate Callum, and the two become friends as they work to save the Osprey they’ve named Isis. They’re able to get the bird tagged by a preservationist, but after Isis flies to Africa for the winter, her signal becomes stagnant, then lost. Spurred by a promise to Iona, who has fallen ill, Callum is determined to track and save Isis, and a leap of faith and the magic of e-mail connects him with a girl in Gambia who can help him make good—in more ways than one. Set against the dramatic landscapes of Scotland and West Africa, this is a timeless tale of hope and friendship—a heartwarming novel infused with the beauty of nature.

2 thoughts on “Wild Wings

  1. Johnson & Carpenter says:

    I found we had more to say about this book. One of the reasons that there is so much to say about the book is that is has so many aspects that promote discussion.
    I opened up the book and I was hooked! I loved the idea of the outcast since at one time or another, we are all outcasts in the world, and often quite alone, just like the ospreys. The osprey movement is a great metaphor for connection that transcends borders. I also loved the way the plot allows young readers to see how the world continues after tragedies, and that the cycle involves not only humans, but ideas, movements, and nature. Wild Wings is a wonderful read that codifies hope and agency for young people and an open invitation to proceed with both. While I loved reading this book, I was just a bit disappointed that Jeneba, who admits she needs help with her English, seems to have no problem with English. That was the only aspect of this story that wasn’t quite as realistic as I would hope. If Jeneba’s English was a bit more stilted or less grammatically correct, this would have created an opportunity to discuss how learning another language is marvelous, but full of starts and stops. The modeling might have been inspiring for young people.
    Wow! Your remarks made me appreciate Wild Wings in a whole new way. I hadn’t seen the idea of the outcast connected with the osprey or, the thought of the osprey movement being a great metaphor for connections that transcend borders. Now you have brought it up I totally resonate with how those ideas are incorporated into the story. Your remarks make me value and appreciate the book in a whole new way. The different ways that we connect to books affirms for me how each of us has a different transaction with the text. That is one of the reasons why we should promote responses in the classroom that encourage children to view books through the lens of their own experiences and backgrounds. When the children share their varied responses it lets them value and gain insights into the books they read in a different way. And, sharing such varied responses incites discussion, sometimes heated, that deepen the students’ understandings of the stories.
    Another idea that I connected with in what you wrote is the fact the author, Gill Lewis, makes her story hopeful. Lately, I have been reading so many novels for young people that are about dystopias. There is very little hope in any of those books. I feel depressed when I read them! How do children feel that read such books? Hope should to be a vital part of the literature that we offer for young people. However, of course such hope needs to be realistic. That is another aspect of Wild Wings that I value that Lewis incorporates hope into her story in a realistic way. I only have one concern about this book. That is idea of the white boy, Callum, in Scotland helping the African child, Jeneba. Too many books show how white people are saving the poor Africans. Check out what Barb and I wrote in a previous dialogue about this book: http://wowlit.org/catalog/9781442414457/ It is quite impressive to see all the different ideas evoked by this book.
    Yes, the “great White hope” is a concern. I think it is a bit tempered here, however, with Jeneba’s resilence and her willingness to go to Scotland. Often the “help” is given and received from a distance, and then there is no real human interaction. With Wild Wings I get a sense of “we are all just people here,” which is a sentiment I take from much of Jacqueline Woodson’s books when folks from differing cultural locations come into contact with one another. All in all, I think Wild Wings is a great read for young people. It gives them hope, as you say, but it also may inspire them to take action when action is needed—whether it be with ospreys or with people in their home communities or the communities across borders.
    I agree Wild Wings is a great read and it will inspire action. Connect it to Jacqueline Woodson’s books.

  2. Marilyn Carpenter says:

    There are many layers to this story that makes it an excellent choice to share in the classroom.
    • First it is a great story that will make an absorbing read aloud.
    • Second, it has global and green aspects that make it timely – a osprey’s migration from Scotland to Africa is tracked in Google Earth in the story.
    • Third, there are e-mail exchanges between the characters who live in Scotland and Africa emphasizing the developing friendships.
    • Fourth, it depicts how a community can work together to care for each other and embrace others in faraway places. Marilyn

    I agree that the layers of this story make it compelling for use in the classroom. First, as a reader I was unaware of the plight of the osprey. Apparently it is extremely rare to have a mating pair in the wild. I would think that a teacher could integrate Math, Science, Social Studies and Language Arts all into this one book. What fun for children who are so bogged down with restricted curriculum these days! A teacher could use this book to track the opreys’ migration, and study the migration of other animals/mammals such as humpback whales and monarch butterflies. As a child I was fascinated with the books of Leo Politi who wrote Song of the Swallows about the migration of the swallows to San Juan Capistrano and Butterflies Come about the migration of the monarch butterflies to Monterey California. I was (am still am) with the notion that animals have a natural instinct to return to the same place every year. While Song of the Swallows is still in print as it won the Caldecott Award, Butterflies Come is not. I’m sure however, there are other books teachers could use with Wild Wings to learn about animal migration. Barb

    I loved the Leo Politi books too. When I was a child my mother always took me to a bookstore in Los Angeles to have the newest Politi book autographed. My copy of Song of the Swallows is falling apart, but it features a beautiful inscription to me done in watercolors by Politi. I started thinking about other books on migration that would be great to connect with Wild Wings. They are both fiction and nonfiction. Here are some of the titles:
    • Isabel’s House of Butterflies by Tony Johnston
    • Project Ultraswan by Elinor Osborn
    • North: The Amazing Story of Arctic Migration by Nick Dowson
    • On the Wing: American Birds in Migration by Carol Lerner
    Must be the L.A. girls in us! Another thing I was thinking about with this book is how it ties back to Beatrice’s Dream. I think it gives students a realistic view of Africa. The idea that the Scottish children are emailing Africa suggests that the African continent is not some desert wasteland where everyone is running around in loin clothes and spears. I think it would pair well with City Boy by Jan Michael, which contrasts living conditions between the African cities and the more rural villages. I believe the more realistic ideas we can give students about the African continent the better for everyone. Barb

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