High as a Hawk: A Brave Girl's Historic Climb

Book review by
Whitney Stewart, Common Sense Media
High as a Hawk: A Brave Girl's Historic Climb Book Poster Image
Inspiring account of young climber.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Harriet honors her deceased mother.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 8-year-old Harriet Peters feels the absence of her mother, who has recently died. But she puts her trust in her father and in a mountain guide she has befriended.

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What's the story?

In the darkness of early morning, Harriet Peters starts climbing Colorado's Longs Peak with her father and famous mountain guide, Enos Mills. When her father collapses in exhaustion, Harriet begs to go on to accomplish the dream of her deceased mother --- to reach the top, and to see a hawk.

Painful blisters, a thundering herd of elk, howling wind, and a snowstorm threaten Harriet's mission. But Harriet and her guide are a powerful team. They find reward in a pair of shining wings.

Is it any good?

Barron's first-person narrative feels authentic; young Harriet shares her wonder, fear, exhaustion, and exhilaration with the reader. In a read-aloud session, listeners gasp when a herd of elk startle Harriet; they moan when Harriet escapes from snow, thunder, and lightening under a lip of rock. And best of all, they can't take their eyes off Ted Lewin's stunning illustrations. Taking his cues from a 1905 photo of Mills and Peters (Barron gives no clues as to who took the photo, included in the endnotes), Lewin's up-close images create light, movement, and emotion that give the book great impact.

Inspired by the true story of Harriet Peters' 1905 climb up Longs Peak with Enos Mills, founder of the Rocky Mountain National Park, T.A. Barron deftly recounts the climbing tale as he has imagined it. Although in his endnotes Barron admits to taking poetic license, he says Enos Mills' daughter and granddaughter supported his research, and that his story's historical basis is accurate.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Harriet chooses to climb a mountain to remember her mother, who loved nature.

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