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Wild Wings

Illustrated by Yuta Onoda



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About The Book

The majestic Osprey is an endangered bird that hasn’t been seen in Scotland for years, so when Iona McNair locates an Osprey nest, she’s desperate to keep the bird safe from poachers. She shares her secret with her classmate Callum, and the two become friends as they work to save the Osprey they’ve named Isis. They’re able to get the bird tagged by a preservationist, but after Isis flies to Africa for the winter, her signal becomes stagnant, then lost. Spurred by a promise to Iona, who has fallen ill, Callum is determined to track and save Isis, and a leap of faith and the magic of e-mail connects him with a girl in Gambia who can help him make good—in more ways than one.

Set against the dramatic landscapes of Scotland and West Africa, this is a timeless tale of hope and friendship—a heartwarming novel infused with the beauty of nature.


I saw her first—a pale, skinny girl lying on a flat rock below the rapids. She was leaning out over the edge, reaching down into a deep pool of still water. Swirls of river foam clung to the bottom of her rolled-up sleeves and the floating ends of her long red hair. She was watching something in the dark river-shadows.

Rob and Euan pulled up beside me by the gap in the trees, their bike tires skidding on the muddy track.

“What you looking at, Callum?” said Rob.

“Someone’s down there,” I said. “A girl.”

Euan pushed away a pine branch to get a better view down to the river. “Who is it?”

“Dunno,” I said. “She’s nuts though. It must be freezing in there.” I looked up and down the river to see if she was with anyone, but there was no one. She was on her own.

The river was fast and swollen from the heavy rains. It came down from the loch in the high glen above us. Late March snow still clung to the mountain gullies. The loch and river were cold as ice.

“She’s on our river,” scowled Rob.

The girl slipped her arm in deeper. Water crept over her sleeve and up to her shoulder.

“What’s she doing?” I said.

Euan dropped his bike onto the ground. “Fishing, that’s what.”

The girl plunged forward in a blur of spray. When she sat back up, she was clutching a massive brown trout. It flapped and thrashed in her wet hands. She flicked her hair back over her head, and for the first time we could clearly see her face.

“I know her,” said Rob.

I turned to look at him. His face was dark and grim.

“Who is she?” I said.

But Rob was already off his bike and marching down the riverbank toward her.

“Rob,” I called.

The girl looked up and saw us, and tried to hide the fish in her arms.

Euan and I ran down to the water’s edge following Rob. A narrow channel of fast water ran between us and the girl.

Rob yelled across at her. “Iona McNair!”

The girl scrambled to her feet.

Rob leaped across to the flat rock and grabbed her arm. “You’re a thief, Iona McNair, just like your ma.”

The girl struggled to hold the slippery fish. “I’m not stealing,” she cried.

Rob pulled the fish from her and jumped back onto the riverbank. “Then what d’you call this?” He held the fish up high. “This is Callum’s river and you’re stealing.”

They all looked at me now.

“What about it, Callum?” said Rob. “What’s the punishment for fishing on your farm without a permit?”

I opened my mouth, but no words came out.

“I don’t need a permit,” spat Iona, “I didn’t use a rod.”

“You’re a thief!” shouted Rob. “And we don’t want you here.”

I looked at Iona and she narrowed her eyes at me.

Rob dropped the thrashing fish on the ground and picked up a plastic bag next to Iona’s coat on the riverbank. “What else have you got in here?”

“Leave it; it’s mine,” yelled Iona.

Rob tipped out a pair of old sneakers and a tatty notebook. He picked up the notebook from the ground and flicked the mud from it.

Iona jumped across to the riverbank and tried to snatch it from him. “Give it back. It’s secret.” She bit her lip, as if she’d said too much.

Her hands were shaking, and her arms and feet were blue with cold.

“Give it back, Rob,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Euan. “Come on, Rob, let’s go.”

“Wait a sec,” said Rob. He started flicking over the pages. “Let’s see what secret she’s trying to hide.”

Iona tried to grab the book, but Rob held it out of reach, laughing.

“What’s your secret, Iona McNair?” he taunted.

The pages fluttered in the breeze. I glimpsed pencil drawings of animals and birds, and lots of scribbled notes. A page hung open on a painting of the loch in deep grays and purples.

Iona jumped and tore the book from his hands. She leaped across to the flat rock and held the book over the water. “I’ll never tell you,” she cried. “Never.”

Rob took a step toward her. “Come on. Let’s see.”

Iona’s face was fierce and set.

“Leave it, Rob,” I shouted.

Euan tried to pull him away, but Rob shook him off.

“What’s the big secret, Iona?” shouted Rob. He lunged toward her.

Iona leaped across the rocks to the far riverbank. It was an impossible leap. She slipped on a wet rock and went tumbling into a deep pool on the far side. The notebook flew from her hand and spun through the air before it hit the fast water and was gone. Iona scrambled out of the river and disappeared up the steep bank into dense pine forest. The river surged down the valley between us, taking the notebook and Iona’s secret away with it.

About The Author

Courtesy of the author

Gill Lewis is the author of the critically acclaimed Wild Wings and One White Dolphin, both winners of the Green Earth Book Award, as well as Moon BearGorilla Dawn, and Scarlet Ibis. A veterinarian, her love of animals and the natural world plays a big part in her writing. She lives in the UK.

About The Illustrator

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (May 24, 2011)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781442414457
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12

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Raves and Reviews

Wild Wings

By Gill Lewis

Though Callum first sees Iona as an intruder on his family’s farmland, she reveals a secret that overcomes his reluctance to befriend her: she’s discovered a rare osprey aerie. For months, they watch a pair of raptors and their chicks until it’s nearly time for the birds’ migration to Africa. Keeping his closeness with Iona as deep a secret as the endangered ospreys’ nest, Callum begins to draw away from his other friends at school. After a shocking event, he gradually learns not only that he needs them, but also that he can depend on them and the rest of his village community more than he knew. Set in contemporary Scotland, this engaging novel is built on a solid foundation of characters who respond realistically to people and experiences. Even the minor characters are well drawn and convincing, and the interplay of individuals from different generations is portrayed with unusual finesse. A strong ecological theme runs through the novel, as the characters together work to protect one of the ospreys, even tracking an electronically tagged bird’s journey to Africa and finding allies to rescue her when she’s in danger. Full-page drawings, not seen in final form, will illustrate this vividly imagined and well-written novel.

--Booklist, March 1, 2011, *STAR

Striving to protect the osprey nesting on his family’s farm in Scotland, 11-year-old Callum McGregor watches the bird throughout summer, uses a computer to follow her migration to Africa and sets in motion a remarkable chain of events. This rich, moving tale begins with a shared secret: It was classmate Fiona McNair who found the nest. When the bird is snagged in fishing line high in her pine, the circle expands to include Callum’s sheep-farming family and a ranger from a nearby preserve. When she migrates, Callum and friends Rob and Euan track her through the transmitter she carries on her back. When her signal disappears in a Gambian mangrove forest, 10-year-old Jeneba, hospitalized with broken legs, mobilizes the fishermen of her village and a visiting American doctor to rescue and rehabilitate her. Eventually—and entirely naturally—the bird’s story reaches around the world. The suspenseful story line is surrounded with precise details: the Scottish landscape, osprey behavior, the work of a sheepdog and the joy and pain of riding a trail bike. Short chapters, some with cliffhanging endings, will read aloud well. Callum’s first-person narrative is occasionally paralleled by the osprey’s own experience, as Callum imagines it. With universal themes of life and death, friendship and respect for the natural world, this is still quite particular, a powerfully memorable story of a boy’s grief and determination to keep a promise. - KIRKUS, March 1, 2011 *STAR

Wild Wings
Written by Gill Lewis and illustrated by Yuta Onada

(Atheneum; ISBN: 9781442414457; May 2011; Spring catalog p. 68)

The worlds of two villages in Scotland and the Gambia intersect through modern technology and the determined efforts of children to save an injured osprey. When 11-year-old Iona moves in with her elderly grandfather, who is considered a "nutter," most children ostracize her. But an unlikely friendship develops between Iona and her classmate Callum after she shares her discovery of an osprey nest on his farm. Knowing ospreys are endangered, they keep Iris's existence secret until a fishing line entangles her, forcing them to seek help. A naturalist saves Iris and tags her, allowing the children to track her flight from Scotland to Africa online. In her first novel, picture book author Lewis (The Most Precious Thing) deftly explores painful divisions within friendships and communities, which lead to broken relationships and unexpected tragedies, as well as surprising connections made across barriers of culture and distance when one person's passion inspires acts of generosity, kindness, friendship, and hope. Callum narrates most of the story, though several short chapters share Iris's perspective in this unsentimental and powerfully moving tale. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12.

--Publishers Weekly, March 14, 2011, *STAR

Awards and Honors

  • California Young Reader Medal Nominee
  • Green Earth Book Award
  • Booklinks Lasting Connections
  • USBBY Outstanding International Book
  • Maine Student Book Award Reading List
  • Great Stone Face Book Award Nominee (NH)
  • ALA Notable Children's Book Nominee
  • Kirkus Best Children's Book
  • Black Eyed Susan Book Award (MD)

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More books from this author: Gill Lewis

More books from this illustrator: Yuta Onoda