Oxford, OUP, 2011, 226p
This was an unexpectedly enjoyable book. I had not anticipated where the plot would take me, and it was refreshing to read an original story about wildlife.
The Sky Hawk is an osprey named Iris, a rare migrating bird found by two children in the highlands of Scotland. Iona and Callum promise to keep their discovery a secret from anyone else, knowing that it would endanger the life of their beloved new friend. But things do not go to plan, when they find Iris caught by a fishing wire, close to death. They have to enlist the help of some trusted adults, who place a tracker on the bird, so the children can follow her flight south for the winter, over the mountains of France, across the Sahara desert, into The Gambia.
This journey was the element of the novel I had not predicted - I find that many teenage novels can be plotted fairly easily within the first few pages, so it was brilliant for this story to take me somewhere new. The first 60 pages do not lead you to guess that you will later be flying over north Africa with the bird.
The story is told through Callum, who remains in Scotland, tracking the flight via the Internet. Whilst Iris flies, Callum searches for pictures to get an idea of what she sees as she travels. The journey is perilous, but Callum and Iris have a special link, and he strives to keep his promise to protect her.
The way in which the characters come together for the osprey is incredible and inspiring. This novel is uplifting, both in terms of the story and the language. Callum's farm is a magnificent sight brought to the reader by vivid description and imagery, whilst The Gambia is seen through the pictures Callum finds online, and later by a pen pal who also takes an interest in the bird.
Sky Hawk is an uplifting novel because of the way it demonstrates the good in people. It is about more than an animal, more than nature - it is enjoyable because it is about humanity.