Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City Book Poster Image
Red-tailed hawk story stirs urban enviro-conflict.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Teaches a bit about the nesting habits of hawks and eco-activism.

Positive Messages

People show concern about the survival of the red-tailed hawk in Central Park.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this true story of a red-tailed hawk surviving in New York City definitely carries a strong message about the rights of wild animals.

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What's the story?

After a red-tailed hawk moves into Central Park, New Yorkers begin following his activities, watching him for years. Unfortunately, the nest he builds on a Fifth Avenue apartment building makes a mess, and its removal sets off an uproar that echoes throughout the environmental activism world.

Is it any good?

By calling Pale Male the "citizen hawk of New York City," Janet Schulman lets the reader know just where she stands on the issue of hawks vs. humans, and her stance echoes throughout the book. The question of whether hawk rights outweigh human rights is really never asked; it's assumed that they are at least of equal importance. But the problem of how to manage nesting wildlife amid the city, with all the mess and inconvenience it might bring, is not addressed. However, this is still an amazing story, and one that will certainly evoke important discussion.

Most of the story is told in a straightforward, journalistic style. The most engaging parts tell of Pale Male's first appearance in Central Park, his nest building activities, and the things he does to teach his fledging hawklets to survive. Readers will be as amazed, and captivated, as New Yorkers were. And they will be just as stunned at the harshness of the people who destroyed the hawks' nest. Watercolor paintings create scenes of almost breathtaking interest. The colorful autumn trees of Central Park stand out in stark contrast to grey high rise buildings. Brown, black, beige feathered hawks soar gracefully in the sky, or guard speckled eggs in a twig-woven nest perched on a cement ledge. Scene after scene brings the natural world together with the urban. While this is the root of conflict in the Pale Male story, it's also the part that makes it amazing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about -- and learn more about -- red-tailed hawks. What do they look like? Where do they normally live? How did this one find its way into Central Park? Do you think his nest should have been left alone even though he was making a mess on the street below? Can you think of any other solution that would have made both the hawk and the people happy?

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