5.24.2011

Feathered City: Pale Male, Citizen Hawk of New York City

During the next few days I will be looking at three picture books about Pale Male, the famous red-tailed hawk who built his nest at 927 Fifth Avenue.

Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City Pale Male, Citizen Hawk of New York City is the most detailed of the three books about Pale Male. From the horror-flick fate of Pale Male's first mate (she became so disoriented by a flock of screaming, harassing crows that she slammed into a high-rise!), to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918's impact on the fate of the nest, to the careful descriptions of the fledglings' first steps, no detail is too small to be included in this book. To say Janet Schulman's book is very thorough is an understatement.

After setting up the story of the birds' lives, nest and family building, Schulman focuses on the controversy over the nest's location at the ritzy Fifth Avenue apartment building.  She examines the parties involved, media attention, why the nest was removed, and how it came to be replaced. Conservatives may feel uptight about the mention of George W.'s administration's practice of relaxing wildlife laws and how that led to the first dismantling of the nest. However, it's still a fact and Schulman's sets it within the context of the story.

Meilo So's illustrations are absolutely beautiful. She skillfully merges nature and urban landscapes. Of all the Pale Male books, I found her marriage of natural world with urban landscape the most appealing and sophisticated. The opening image of Pale Male finding the autumnal colors of Central Park amidst the blue-greys of the city buildings and waters is simply gorgeous.  I'm not a skilled art critic, but I would suggest reading this book if only for the lovely illustrations. Her portrait of the tenants in the Fifth Avenue building looking out at the protesters (almost) makes you sympathize with them.

A wonderful picture book to be enjoyed by kids... and adults, too!

Want More?
Read the review in the New York Times (spoiler alert: it mentions the other books I will be looking at).
Read an article at Audobon Magazine, "How the Nest Was Won."
Learn about the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 on Wikipedia, or if you are adventurous, read it in full.
View more of Meilo So's illustrations at her blog.
Janet Schulman passed away this year, read an article about her at Library Journal.

Big Kid says: I am really glad they got to build their nest again. I bet Junior is definitely Pale Male's baby.

2 comments:

Brimful Curiosities said...

A red-tailed hawk flew right above my head this morning when I was out watering the garden. I think a black crow was chasing it but they were both flying so fast I couldn't see. I've never heard of Pale Male before. We'll have to look into the titles. We finally read The True Story of Stellina and loved it!

MaryAnne said...

We'll be looking for this book (and the other one you mentioned) as well!

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