We discovered Gill Lewis’ Wild Wings on the new books rack at the library yesterday. “Hey look,” I said, handing it to my 10-year-old, “it’s about an osprey.” She checked it out, and because I was curious myself I read furiously last night and this morning, burning delightedly through all 302 pages.
Wild Wings is narrated by 11-year-old Callum McGregor, a Scottish boy whose friend Iona shows him a rare thing: a pair of ospreys nesting on his farm. Ospreys haven’t been sighted there in a century, and in an effort to keep them safe from egg thieves and hunters the two try to keep them secret. Over the course of their story, others are drawn in, and subjects such as wildlife management, death and loss, friendship, and even international cooperation come into play. The tale is skillfully woven, contains plenty of naturalistic detail, and is told convincingly from Callum’s perspective.
One interesting aspect of the story is the positive role of technology. I have been free with criticism around these parts when it comes to the incursion of the technical and the digital in human affairs, but in this story texting, email, a tracking device carried by the female osprey, and Google earth all play very useful and even life-enriching roles. One neat feature at the end is the discovery of a website where interested readers can track a real osprey, nesting in Scotland, on its migratory journey to Africa.
I’m glad to have read Wild Wings, partly because I enjoyed it very much, and partly because it will give us something to talk about. Unlike the kids in the story, my daughters don’t have their own computers, nor do they have the kind of space and freedom the children in this small Scottish town have (more’s the pity). Our faith plays a different role in our lives than it does for these characters. But mostly I think it’s the ospreys that will be the most compelling conversational fodder. The story reminded me of a modernized Wheel on the School, both in its subject matter and in its idea that “sometimes when you begin to wonder, you begin to make things happen.”
On a personal note, one of the reasons ospreys interest us is that we’ve just returned from the Adirondacks, where ospreys have nested on a particular island in a particular lake for years. But this year, they weren’t there. Only their nest was. “They’ve been hounded,” my father says indignantly, “by a hundred little kayaks on the lake.”
But happily, they are still in the area. As we swam in that lake, a huge bird flew over and disappeared in the trees beyond the lake. If they’ve moved, they haven’t moved far — only to some other little lake rimmed by rugged white pines and stocked with plenty of fish. Wild Wings reinforces the wonder of these great birds and provides evidence that many people feel the same way about them.