Kings…princesses…castles. The Hawk of the Castle appeals to all of those fairy tale elements, but it’s full of nonfiction content. It uses a fictional narrator (“This is me. This is my father.”) to explain how falcons and hawks were used in medieval times for hunting. The text is in verse reminiscent of “This is the House that Jack Built”:
This is our hawk: a sight to behold,
a master of flight, graceful and bold.
My father trains this bird of prey
who lives with us at the castle.
In every stanza, the first two lines rhyme, and the last line ends with a preposition and then “…the castle.” (In fact, I could imagine using this book for a lesson on prepositions, finding the different preopositions at the end of every stanza.) Every spread also has a text box with nonfiction information about hunting birds and how they were trained and used. The real pleasure of the book, though, is in reading it aloud. Of course, that read aloud may well prompt passionate interest that can be met with the text boxes.
In the back matter, Danna Smith describes her own experience with falconry, describing learning from her own father.
The art, by Bagram Ibatoulline, is rich and luscious with detailed settings for every spread.
The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry by Danna Smith, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. Candlewick: 2017.