In my library stack this week were two picture books about birds of prey. Both books were written by the women who helped rescue them, and use the story of their experiences in helping create a life in captivity for their charges to show something about the basic biology of the animals.
Hawk Mother tells the true story of an injured red-tailed hawk who tried to hatch her infertile eggs every year. Finally the author tries swapping out her infertile eggs for fertile chicken eggs. The hawk successfully hatches and raises two chicks. The book concludes, “If she had found them in the wild she would have eaten them. That’s what hawks do. But since she hatched them herself she gave the all the care and protection they needed until they were fully grown.”
The Bird and the Beak tells the true story of a bald eagle who lost the top half of his beak to gunfire. When the author, a wildlife conservationist, has a chance encounter with a scientist, they come up with a plan to 3-D print a prosthetic beak for the bird. They enlist the help of their own dentists and dental hygienists (dentists as heroes!) and create a new beak for the bird. I loved how the text of this book stresses from the beginning, even before the injury occurs, all the ways an eagle in the wild uses its beak. By the time the bird is injured, it’s obvious how very serious his situation is without a beak. I also loved the back matter. There are a full nine spreads devoted to information about the biology of eagles, the cultural significance of eagles, conservation issues related to eagles, and an essay about prosthetics. This is a book where the main text will draw in any reader and the back matter will let passionate kids pursue their interest.
Both of these books are lavishly illustrated with color photographs, and both are, without comment, about female scientists. And both have covers that impel you to open the book.
Hawk Mother: The Story of a Red-tailed Hawk who Hatched Chickens by Kara Hagedorn. (Web of Life Children’s Books: 2017).
Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp. (Persnickety Press: 2017).