Gull Number 737

by Jean Craighead George 

     Luke spends summers with his family in a small building on an island beach, where his father does research on seagull behavior. In particular, he\’s attempting to recreate experiments done by Dutch scientist Niko Tinbergen, to show that the birds have the same instinctive behavior in completely different areas of the world. I found this particularly delightful, as I\’ve read Tinbergen\’s book myself, remember it very well and knew exactly what they were talking about. Luke\’s father is adamant about doing his studies scientifically and collecting enough data- which means repeating the same thing over and over. Luke himself gets frustrated with the tedium of the work, and sees different things in the birds\’ behavior that he wants to explore, but his dad gets angry and dismissive, sees this as a distraction and doesn\’t want to go into those other ideas. Luke also has a difficult relationship with his sister, jealous that when she gets a job on a lobster boat against their father\’s wishes, he lets her go ahead and keep working there, while Luke is forced to continue helping with the gull research. He chafes under his father\’s rule and wants to find another avenue for himself. Yet at the same time he finds himself becoming fond of certain individual seagulls and interested in their daily doings (some chapters are from the gulls\’ point of view, which is nice). When the summer winds down his father can\’t find anyone who will fund continuation of their study, and the reluctant decision is made to close the bird lab. Luke is surprised that he\’s actually disappointed their summers at the gull rookery might end.
The final chapters take a sudden turn when an accident at a local airport is caused by seagulls and other birds that frequent the airfield (and a man they know from the island was on board, making it very personal). Suddenly his father\’s knowledge of seagull behavior is in demand, as the airport authorities try to solve their bird problem. Luke gets to see first hand how the research material can be of use in the real world, although he still is at odds with his father, as they have different ideas on what the best solution is.

This book was pretty wonderful. I don\’t think I\’ve ever read another juvenile fiction that had such a clear picture of field research work before- including the difference between applied and basic research, the struggles to obtain funding, the long boring hours of observation when nothing happens. It\’s also rather dated- sometimes in a quaint way. I can\’t imagine a teenager being allowed to just wander through an airport and go up into the traffic control tower! The sister gets roundly chastised for saying a mild swear word at the dinner table (her parents dramatically blame the rough compnay on the lobster boat as a bad influence) and the main character\’s attitude towards girls- especially his own sister- are rather demeaning even though he means it kindly. I didn\’t find this bothersome though, it just reminded me soundly of the timeframe.

Rating: 4/5                198 pages, 1964

3 Responses

  1. Do kids not get in trouble for swearing anymore? Huge if true — I have been minding my language not quite fastidiously, but almost, around my little nephew for YEARS now, and if kids can just swear when they want to, I shall stop it right away. :PI also LOVE the idea of a kids' book that focuses on field research. They're never too young to learn the importance of Data!

  2. Well, yeah, they do- but I guess I'm rather lenient in my house. I don't blink if my teenager says damn or hell though I've made it clear I don't want to hear stronger language in my house, especially the f-bomb. My youngest knows she isn't to say any of them- because obviously she'll get in trouble at school. I suppose for a long time I haven't really considered damn a swear word so the strong reaction to that in this story -when a teenager said it- seemed over the top.

  3. I love seagulls, they're my second favorite bird. I'd be like the kid though, more likely to follow whatever has my interest that day instead of sitting there for hours doing the more tedium parts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

DISCLAIMER:

All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL:

Subscribe to my blog:

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

VIEW MY PERSONAL COLLECTION:

TRADE BOOKS WITH ME ON:

ARCHIVES: 

2023
January 2023 (26)
2022
January 2022 (12)February 2022 (7)March 2022 (13)April 2022 (16)May 2022 (13)June 2022 (21)July 2022 (15)August 2022 (27)September 2022 (10)October 2022 (17)November 2022 (16)December 2022 (23)
2021
January 2021 (14)February 2021 (13)March 2021 (14)April 2021 (7)May 2021 (10)June 2021 (5)July 2021 (10)August 2021 (27)September 2021 (16)October 2021 (11)November 2021 (14)December 2021 (12)
2020
January 2020 (14)February 2020 (6)March 2020 (10)April 2020 (1)May 2020 (10)June 2020 (15)July 2020 (13)August 2020 (26)September 2020 (10)October 2020 (9)November 2020 (16)December 2020 (22)
2019
January 2019 (12)February 2019 (9)March 2019 (5)April 2019 (10)May 2019 (9)June 2019 (6)July 2019 (18)August 2019 (13)September 2019 (13)October 2019 (7)November 2019 (5)December 2019 (18)
2018
January 2018 (17)February 2018 (18)March 2018 (9)April 2018 (9)May 2018 (6)June 2018 (21)July 2018 (12)August 2018 (7)September 2018 (13)October 2018 (15)November 2018 (10)December 2018 (13)
2017
January 2017 (19)February 2017 (12)March 2017 (7)April 2017 (4)May 2017 (5)June 2017 (8)July 2017 (13)August 2017 (17)September 2017 (12)October 2017 (15)November 2017 (14)December 2017 (11)
2016
January 2016 (5)February 2016 (14)March 2016 (5)April 2016 (6)May 2016 (14)June 2016 (12)July 2016 (11)August 2016 (11)September 2016 (11)October 2016 (9)November 2016 (1)December 2016 (3)
2015
January 2015 (9)February 2015 (9)March 2015 (11)April 2015 (10)May 2015 (10)June 2015 (2)July 2015 (12)August 2015 (13)September 2015 (16)October 2015 (13)November 2015 (10)December 2015 (14)
2014
January 2014 (14)February 2014 (11)March 2014 (5)April 2014 (15)May 2014 (12)June 2014 (17)July 2014 (22)August 2014 (19)September 2014 (10)October 2014 (19)November 2014 (14)December 2014 (14)
2013
January 2013 (25)February 2013 (28)March 2013 (18)April 2013 (21)May 2013 (12)June 2013 (7)July 2013 (13)August 2013 (25)September 2013 (24)October 2013 (17)November 2013 (18)December 2013 (20)
2012
January 2012 (21)February 2012 (19)March 2012 (9)April 2012 (23)May 2012 (31)June 2012 (21)July 2012 (19)August 2012 (16)September 2012 (4)October 2012 (2)November 2012 (7)December 2012 (19)
2011
January 2011 (26)February 2011 (22)March 2011 (18)April 2011 (11)May 2011 (6)June 2011 (7)July 2011 (10)August 2011 (9)September 2011 (14)October 2011 (13)November 2011 (15)December 2011 (22)
2010
January 2010 (27)February 2010 (19)March 2010 (20)April 2010 (24)May 2010 (22)June 2010 (24)July 2010 (31)August 2010 (17)September 2010 (18)October 2010 (11)November 2010 (13)December 2010 (19)
2009
January 2009 (23)February 2009 (26)March 2009 (32)April 2009 (22)May 2009 (18)June 2009 (26)July 2009 (34)August 2009 (31)September 2009 (30)October 2009 (23)November 2009 (26)December 2009 (18)
2008
January 2008 (35)February 2008 (26)March 2008 (33)April 2008 (15)May 2008 (29)June 2008 (29)July 2008 (29)August 2008 (34)September 2008 (29)October 2008 (27)November 2008 (27)December 2008 (24)
2007
August 2007 (12)September 2007 (28)October 2007 (27)November 2007 (28)December 2007 (14)
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
2001
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
1976
1975
1974
1973
1972
1971
1970
1969
1968
1967
1966
1965
1964
1963
1962
1961
1960
1959
1958
1957
1956
1955
1954
1953
1952
1951
1950