Skydiver: Saving the Fastest Bird in the World Reviews

Booklist

SkydiverCover“This encouraging animal-rescue story features the world’s fastest animal: the peregrine falcon. Set in the era when scientists realized that DDT was thinning eggshells and endangering many bird species, the story is told in a simple, immediate manner, focusing mainly on the birds rather than on their rescuers. Two peregrines meet at their cliffside nesting site, where the male flies to a great height, plummets down, and then sweeps upward to join the female in an aerial courtship dance. Their first four eggs are taken by a woman lowered down the cliff by a rope. Of their next three eggs, two break during nesting, but they raise the remaining chick. Meanwhile, a rescue team hatches the first four eggs, nurtures the surviving three young birds, and releases them. An owl snatches one, but the others survive as city dwellers, living on a skyscraper ledge. Trained as a scientific illustrator as well as a biologist, Godkin uses soft, precise strokes of oil paint to create scenes of peregrines in captivity and in the wild. An attractive, informative picture book.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Threatened with extinction across North America, peregrine falcons were bred in captivity and provided with new territories until their populations rebounded.

Godkin begins her account of this environmental good news by introducing a peregrine pair who return from migration, court and lay eggs, only to have their first eggs taken by a rock-climbing human being…Dramatic oil paintings show falcons in various activities—soaring, diving, hunting and feeding their chicks—and chicks being fed in captivity…this success story will be welcomed by nature lovers.”

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School Library Journal

“K-Gr 2–A look at the peregrine falcon, whose population was almost decimated as a result of the extensive use of the pesticide DDT. In clear and engaging language, Godkin frames this informative book around the story a pair of falcons and their offspring. The dramatic mating display of the male and the courtship dance between the two are beautifully illustrated. Occasionally, the birds are anthropomorphized (for instance, the female “joyfully” rises up to join her mate in flight). The author discusses the idea of the food chain, explaining that while DDT didn’t kill falcons outright, it caused their eggs to become so brittle that most broke before hatching. She explains how environmentalists were successful in having DDT banned but says that brittle eggs remain a problem many years later and that continuing human intervention is necessary to help restore the population. Godkin follows the fate of four eggs taken from the pair of falcons introduced in the beginning pages, and readers learn how some hatchlings are taken to sanctuaries to be incubated. Of the original four eggs, one hatchling is taken to a sanctuary, two survive after being moved from a cliffside nesting platform to a ledge on a city skyscraper, and the last falls victim to a great horned owl. An author’s note provides further resources and information on both peregrine falcons, and pesticide use.”
–Nancy Silverrod, San Francisco Public Library

Resource Links

“Using crisp text and exquisite paintings award winning author and illustrator Celia Godkin tells the story of a pair of peregrine falcons. The book begins with a description of the habits of the birds in springtime.

‘Together, they swoop and tumble in a dazzling courtship dance.’ As the story progresses, Celia seamlessly introduces the concepts of conservation in response to the long term effects of global usage of DDT. Celia describes how the first clutch of eggs was taken from the birds to be raised in a bird sanctuary.

Without bogging down the story, Celia provides justification and explanations of actions taken. In regards to the removal of the eggs Celia notes that ‘The falcon rescue teams know that peregrines often lay a second clutch if the first is destroyed.’ The pair of falcons do indeed lay more eggs and raise one chick that year. The book follows the development of the human raised chicks. Celia explains that due to the usage of DDT the peregrine falcon ‘…had disappeared from great tracts of its former territory’ and shows that even high rise buildings in cities have been used successfully to reintroduce the peregrine falcon.

The two page paintings illustrate the wide scope of a peregrine’s world. The paintings evoke a sense of the peregrine’s speed in flight. This book is highly recommended for both school and public libraries. It can be used for story time as well as lesson units about nature, birds, conservation and the environment.”
—Laura Reilly

CM Magazine

Choosing the peregrine falcon as the subject of her latest book is a wise, if not brilliant, choice. There is something about raptors that is particularly fascinating to the young. Perhaps it is their speed or their power or what appears to us as brutality that holds us in awe of these birds of prey.

Godkin’s writing is clear and concise and well-researched…..The author/illustrator’s dramatic full-colour paintings illuminate each page….Skydiver: Saving the Fastest Bird in the World is well worth a place on the shelves of the wildlife section in an elementary school library. Highly Recommended.”

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Canadian Children’s Book News

“Because of the effects of the now-outlawed pesticide, DDT, few peregrine falcon chicks were hatching in the wild in the 1970s, which resulted in the breed’s disappearance from much of North America. This story describes the challenges a mature male and female peregrine falcon face when raising their young in the wild, and the determined efforts of scientists and volunteers who appropriate their first clutch of eggs to a sanctuary where the chicks will have a better chance of survival.

Author-illustrator Celia Godkin, renowned for her award-winning picture books concerning environmental issues, once again inspires young readers with an informative account about the natural world – in this case the successful conservation of a species. The operation of a bird sanctuary is outlined, from the arrival of the peregrine eggs to the release of the chicks. Also included are additional facts and websites about these magnificent birds.

Godkin’s beautiful and dramatic oil-on-canvas illustrations, be they of the sweeping vistas in the wild or of the skyscraper-filled cities where peregrines thrive, depict these fascinating creatures from a variety of perspectives. Readers will gain a deeper understanding of the fragile balance and immense survival challenges facing this breed from egg to chick to adult, and how humans, ultimately, have the power to right the wrongs of the past in order to help these raptors, the fastest birds in the world, to flourish.”

National Reading Campaign

“In Skydiver, Celia Godkin tells the stories of peregrine falcons, the severe decline in their population caused by the pesticide DDT, and the human volunteers whose intervention is necessary if the population is to recover. Godkin follows the lives of both the wild and incubated birds, as well as providing background material on the fight to ban DDT.

…An accomplished artist, Godkin also gives us pictures of this extraordinarily swift bird swooping and playing in a sunlight sky, as well as endearing depictions of the awkward chicks with their fuzzy white down and the gawky juveniles with their mixture of adult plumage and baby fluff. It is these illustrations — as well as Godkin’s advice to “Look up!” — that will really inform and excite children about these beautiful birds.”

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Youth Services Book Reviews Starred Review

Rating: 1-5: 5 (5=starred review)

Genre: Nonfiction Picture Book

What did you like about the book? A peregrine falcon pair mates and lays eggs. Before the eggs can hatch, they are stolen by a scientist who rappels down a cliff to get them. No, it’s not an evil scientist. Rather, it shows the lengths conservationists were forced to go to prevent the extinction of a species when DDT caused birds’ shells to become fragile. Scientists knew the wild peregrines would lay a second clutch to replace the stolen one. Meanwhile, more of the stolen young survived than would have in the wild. The story shows how scientists raised the young and then released most back into the wild to help the species recover. This is a hopeful, upbeat success story told using attractive watercolor pictures in mostly blues and browns. A brief author’s note at the end provides sources of additional information about peregrine falcons and the rescue efforts.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No.

To whom would you recommend this book? Although the audience appears to be first to third graders, some challenging vocabulary (eg. accumulate and conservationist) makes it better suited to be read aloud by an adult.

Who should buy this book? Elementary libraries and public libraries.

Where would you shelve it? Shelve in nonfiction in 598.9 with other books about birds of prey.

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“…The fastest bird in the world? I had no idea. It upped the ante to find our more about them. Find out more I did…The informative text and detailed accompanying artwork show young readers the birds in their airy habitat, on the edge of a rock ledge. After hunting for needed food, the male is on his way back to the nest when he spots people nearby. One of those people climbs down to the nest, carefully removes the eggs and climbs back to the top of the cliff…The author assures that her readers understand  the danger that these beautiful birds have faced, and how their numbers are improving because of  the care and concern shown by leading scientists.

An author’s note encourages readers to find out more and includes this startling statistic: ‘Estimates vary, but one National Geographic team clocked a peregrine in a power dive at 242 miles (387 kilometers) an hour.’”

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