I’m always thrilled to find a slim work of nonfiction that nonetheless packs a big punch. New Hampshire author and naturalist Sy Montgomery provides just that in her 79-page volume, The Hawk’s Way: Encounters with Fierce Beauty, a concise but wondrous celebration of raptors and their impact on her life. Accompanied by the stunning photography of artist Tianne Strombeck (see her wildlife photography galleries here), Montgomery’s story of her journey from hunting skeptic to passionate advocate for birds of prey will thrill any nature lover, or for that matter, any casual nonfiction reader.
It all begins with a visit to master falconer Nancy Cowan and a four-year-old Harris’s hawk named Jazz. Nancy warns Sy about Jazz – her unwillingness to cooperate, her feisty nature, and of course the fact that this easily provoked species can tear skin and pierce to the bones with their fierce talons – and yet, Sy is smitten: “I know I don’t matter to her at all. Yet, to me, she is everything” (16). As we see the progression of Sy’s work with Jazz and Cowan’s other raptors, we learn tidbits about the language, history, and specialized gear of falconry, all of which fascinates and contributes to our understanding of their bond. Yet, as interesting as these facts are, Montgomery confesses that, “From falconry I want only one thing: to get closer to birds of prey. Majestic, graceful, strong, big, brave, and smart: Who would not hunger for such company” (24)?
As Montgomery learns more about bird anatomy and vision, methods of catching a wild hawk to train, and even what it means for a hunting dog to “get birdy,” the reader is pulled along on her intellectual, ethical, and emotional journey. She questions whether she is really cut out to be a falconer; after all, she is told time and again by experts that the hawks will kill her precious domesticated chickens – no holds barred, no quarter given. The book is a compassionate, compelling, but stark look at the lives of these fierce creatures – sometimes bloody and violent, sometimes full of soaring elevation and elation, always and forever wild.
Sy Montgomery is the author of thirty-three books of nonfiction for both children and adults, including The Good Good Pig, How To Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals, and The Soul of an Octopus, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Described as “equal parts poet and scientist” by The New York Times, she also scripted and narrated the National Geographic documentary based on her book Spell of the Tiger. The Hawk’s Way is also available as an e-audiobook from Libby/OverDrive. I listened to Montgomery’s narration as I read along, and the enthusiasm for her subject conveyed in her voice made this a wonderful listen.
Julie is an instructor and research specialist at HCLS Miller Branch who finds her work as co-editor of Chapter Chats very rewarding. She loves gardening, birds, crime fiction, all kinds of music, and the great outdoors.
Spring is here! Temperatures are warming, plants are budding and blooming, and animals are reemerging – including creepy crawlies that we might be less than enthusiastic to greet. As you welcome the change of seasons, here are some reads that celebrate the natural world. Take a look below to find titles for all ages, and keep an eye on our social media to see additional suggestions for each age group.
Join your little one in discovering all the amazing creatures that live in the unique ecosystem of a mountain pond. As a boy and his mother paddle across the pond, they discover the interconnected nature of the creatures that call the pond home. Turn the pages to the end of the story to read facts about all the animals you see.
Come balance, sway, sing, and stretch along with children imagining what it’s like to be a tree. Bright, colorful pictures show children of different backgrounds learning to embrace nature, each other, and themselves. The fun, singsong text is full of sweet affirmations written in both Spanish and English.
Explore the gorgeous illustrations in this volume filled with information about the species that have vanished over the last century. Along with the tragic stories of how many of these species have been lost to the world, this book also shares inspiring tales of species that were rediscovered and some that were successfully reintroduced into the wild.
A vacant lot in inner-city Cleveland, Ohio brings together a community in unexpected ways in this classic tale. Follow the stories of 13 diverse residents as they discover the power of gardening and working together to heal and make change.
This richly illustrated book combines poems with the fascinating backstories of 20 animals who’ve figured out how to thrive in cities. From reticulated pythons in Singapore’s sewer system to coyotes in Chicago, discover why these animals came to be such close neighbors with humans. At the end of the book, enjoy bonus pages on poetry forms and resources to learn more about these clever creatures.
This beautiful nonfiction volume explores some of the quirkiest creatures you can find, along with more common animal companions and friends. Beginning with Darwin’s theory of evolution, the author also explains how advances in scientific knowledge, especially genetics, have expanded our understanding of how animals became their current selves.
This multi-authored novel tells the story of ten teens left alone in the wilderness for a three-day survival test. The diverse group of troubled teens have to overcome their vast differences to survive in the wild with no readily available food or water, just the packs on their backs.
When Oliver takes a summer trip from the bustling city of Chicago to Boulder, Colorado, he experiences a bit of a culture shock. There he meets Essa, a nature-loving girl who plays wilderness survival games with her friends. The two begin to explore Buddhism and meditation at the local Zendo. When one of their survival games goes wrong, the two have to rely on their newfound spiritual strength if they are to save Essa’s sister, Puck, and survive the trip themselves.
In Montana’s Mission mountains, conservationist and rancher Bryce Andrews watches a young grizzly bear be tagged with a GPS collar. As the seasons pass, he tracks her through forests, cornfields, and cattle ranches as she struggles to feed herself (and later her two cubs) from a wilderness increasingly fractured by human use, while he works with farmers, hunters, and Native organizations to protect the bears. Tensions rise as bear encounters with humans and their property become more frequent and destructive, and, as a series of tragic events unfolds, Andrews eloquently wonders what can be done to find balance between these two species. While deeply personal and rooted firmly in the landscapes and culture of the American West, this story is also emblematic of global struggles where habitat loss is pushing wildlife into ever closer proximity with human settlements.
Spring is upon us, and maybe you want to venture into the yard and get ready for outdoor living! In Garden Renovation, you’ll find practical do-it-yourself plans to build or re-build your garden environment. Like many gardening and outdoor project books, the beautiful pictures are just as much fun to look at and dream over as they are instructive. If you decide to take on a project, don’t forget the DIY Education Center can help!
If you’re not familiar with this humorous author, you are in luck, because we own many of his fantastic books. In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson recounts his discovery of and attempts to hike the Appalachian Trail. In this book, you are not inspired by the story of a very fit hiker doing the entire trail from Maine to Georgia in record time, but rather laugh along with the story of an average middle-aged person and his old friend hiking and discovering together. While very funny, Bryson also weaves interesting trail history and social commentary into his tale. I always recall his comments on how few people walk in the woods, and how, after days in the woods, the modern world seems harsh, especially for those on foot. Robert Redford produced and starred as Bryson in the film adaptation, available on DVD.
The Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center opened the doors of its new building in March 2018. Our staff are always happy to help you with your questions about books, tools, technology, and more!