A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a pedagogical story in the best sense -- designed to teach about ecology in general and ravens in particular, and to serve as a model for behavior in families, friendships, and stewardship. The animal behavior aspects of the story are based on good science and research, and the book can lead both to a desire for more information and to good discussions.
What's the story?
Charlie, whose naturalist grandfather is ill, hears from a Sioux friend that ravens can cure sickness, so he steals a baby raven from its nest and names it Blue Sky. It imprints on him, and he raises it at his grandparents' house, finding that it does seem to make his grandfather feel better. With his grandfather's encouragement, he decides to study the effect of the raven, and the environment in general, on his family and friends.
As the raven grows, it becomes more independent, and Charlie begins to realize that his role is no longer that of a parent, though he's not sure what his new role is. This is just one of many mysteries about Blue Sky, which he is determined to solve.
Is it any good?
In her literary niche -- animal-centered ecological fiction -- Jean George has no equal. Like many of her previous novels, CHARLIE'S RAVEN centers on the relationship between a child and an animal, in this case a raven, and is firmly grounded in scientific fact about animal behavior and communication. George has the unique ability to make an animal into a fascinating and delightful character without anthropomorphizing it, and Blue Sky is a worthy successor to Frightful the falcon and Amaroq the wolf.
Like many of her previous books, there's not a lot of plot here, and despite the outdoor setting, this is not a book for kids who must have action and adventure. Instead George takes readers into an unfamiliar life in the far north, close to the land and its seasons, in which science and mysticism mix in delightful and poignant ways. Children who are fascinated by animals, by nature and science, by a life far away from their own, will be enthralled.