by Jean Craighead George
This is the story of a young girl who trains a falcon with her brothers. June and her family spend their summers in a big house in the country, and her brothers seem to have a regular practice of catching and training various types of hawks. (The forward to the book points out that the story is set in the sixties, when there were no regulations against this). It\’s a coming-of-age story, showing how June grows up over a period of three summers- from being headstrong, a bit careless and adventuresome, to taking on responsibility in the household and learning some manners as she grows into a young lady (she really resents this transition at first). Most of the book though, is about the work with her bird, a kestrel or sparrow hawk. June is eager to successfully train the bird and prove herself to her brothers, but she tends to make mistakes and neglect the hawk at times- it really tells how much falconry work is about keeping the bird at the right state of hunger or satiety- when hungry it will feel inclined to fly to a lure, when full it can be let loose to sit content and there\’s no risk of loosing it, for example. I liked the book particularly for the falconry details; the character development is nice too even for such a brief story. Some aspects strongly reflects its timeframe- women were expected to keep house, kids played widely unsupervised (exploring caves and jumping into flooded rivers!) and often got themselves into trouble. There are lighthearted and heavy moments- a party that gets crashed with pranks involving the animals, the children build a clay city and make up a secret language, a family friend dies on a trip- really quite a lot packed into this little book!
Perhaps that\’s why it felt rushed and some things were never explained, which made me wonder if the author wrote another book about this family? There\’s not much background on why these kids regularly keep hawks for example, or what June does with her falcon when she\’s at school during the winter months, I was left puzzled at times. Otherwise, a good read!
Rating: 3/5 153 pages, 1962