Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle Book Poster Image
Amazing bird rescue tale shows teamwork, high-tech science.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of information about how bald eagles grow, fly, hunt prey, and eat, about their feathers, beak, wingspan, nests, and more. Describes how scientists solved the problem of bald eagle Beauty's broken/missing beak by making a prosthetic beak in a 3D printer and attaching it through surgery. Gives a glimpse into the work of scientists who rescue wild birds. Sophisticated vocabulary: "raptor," "aviary," "prosthetic," "preen," "eaglet," "gland," "talons," "biologist," as well as "aerie" (nest), "fledge" (take the first flight), "thermals" (rising currents of air).

Positive Messages

"Once a threatened and endangered species, bald eagles have made a remarkable comeback. Humans -- the very species that put bald eagles in harm's way -- are now working to protect them." Also, artificial, or prosthetic, body parts made in 3D printers can help people and animals. "New developments in science and engineering are leading to all kinds of prosthetic parts that can bend, flex, absorb force, and work very much like real body parts."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Co-author Jane Veltkamp, the raptor biologist who rescues Beauty and helps her get a new beak, takes her to the Idaho wildlife center she founded called Birds of Prey Northwest, which treats sick, injured, and orphaned birds of prey with a goal of returning them to the wild. Book shows her working with a male engineer and a male dentist to solve a problem and create a prosthetic beak for Beauty. "Experts may include engineers, doctors and other health professionals, computer programmers, biologists, veterinarians, and scientists who invent new materials. Thanks to 3D printing, families, teachers, students, and human patients themselves are also designing prosthetic body parts."

Violence & Scariness

Poetic but graphic telling of the shooting when Beauty's beak was shattered by a bullet ("Her eye was torn and her face was bleeding") and she fell from a tree, unable to fly to hunt for food. Photo of Beauty eating the bloody flesh of a fish she catches. Mention that victims of war, disease, or injury may get prosthetic limbs.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle, is an award-winning, picture-filled nonfiction book by science writer and children's book author Deborah Lee Rose and raptor biologist Jane Veltkamp. It tells the engaging story of how Veltkamp worked with an engineer and a dentist to save an Alaskan bald eagle named Beauty, whose beak was shattered by a bullet. The main text tells the riveting story of a young eagle growing up, nearly dying from injury and starvation, being rescued by local police and then healed at Veltkamp's Idaho wildlife center, where it received an artificial ("prosthetic") beak. Informative sidebars add loads of information about bald eagles, the need to protect them, and what you can do to help. Large color photos by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service help tell the story. Description of the imagined moment Beauty is shot is brief and poetic but graphic ("Her eye was torn and her face was bleeding.") and could be disturbing to young or sensitive readers. You can download a free educational guide from www.deborahleerose.com and www.birdsofpreynorthwest.org.

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What's the story?

BEAUTY AND THE BEAK: HOW SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND A 3D-PRINTED BEAK RESCUED A BALD EAGLE follows the journey of a wild bald eagle in Alaska, later named Beauty, that grows from egg to 4-year-old bird, at which point she's suddenly shot, her beak shattered, and she falls from her tree. Due to her injuries, she can't fly to hunt for food and is found by police when she's trying to find scraps at a landfill. She's taken to a local wildlife center, and then Idaho raptor biologist Jane Veltkamp brings her to Birds of Prey Northwest, the wildlife center she founded in Northern Idaho. There Veltkamp teams up with an engineer to create a prosthetic beak and a dentist, who helps attach it to Beauty. The bird survives and still lives at the wildlife center (unable to return to the wild because she still needs help from humans), and her real beak is slowly growing back.

Is it any good?

This riveting survival story gives kids a close-up view of science and technology in service of wildlife. Beauty and the Beak tells one amazing story of a bird and the problem-solving raptor biologist who saves her, but offers lots more information in sidebars filled with facts, figures  -- and feathers! -- that spotlight practical issues such as "How You Can Help" and "Endangered No Longer," which outlines the successful results of conservation efforts. The book won the 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science/Subaru Children's Science Book Prize and the the 2017 California Reading Association Eureka! Gold Award for nonfiction children's books.

The abundant color photos of eagles in the wild and Beauty's progress and treatment will draw kids in. The text is crystal clear and easy for kids to grasp, with specialized scientific vocabulary defined. And the main story of Beauty is beautifully told, with drama and suspense. Even the most graphic passage -- about Beauty's injury -- is told poetically: 

"Suddenly a crash like lightning and thunder split the air! The eagle's face burned. She couldn't see. Her talons lost their grip and the tree seemed to spin around her. She fell to the ground, stunned. The sun was still high in the sky, but the eagle's world went dark. A bullet had shattered her beak. Her eye was torn and her face was bleeding. It even hurt for her to breathe. The eagle lay on the ground for days, too weak to move."

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they learned about bald eagles in Beauty and the Beak. What did you discover that you hadn't known before? 

  • Did you know that body parts made by 3D printers are being used to help injured kids, soldiers, animals, and birds? What do you think about engineers helping scientists, biologists, and doctors in their work? Would you like to work on a team like that? Why is teamwork important? 

  • Is there a wildlife center or animal rescue place where you live? Think you might like to volunteer there someday? What appeals to you about that kind of work? 

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