Wild Wings

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Wild Wings Book Poster Image
Tender tween tale of endangered wildlife, friend's death.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids will learn about ospreys, their nesting habits and migration, as well as the kinds of high-tech tracking devices environmentalists use while observing wildlife. They will also get a vivid glimpse of the rural Scotland landscape, that of Gambia, and of places along the route in between the two.

Positive Messages

In different ways, Callum, his friends, and all of the townspeople learn that it's important to be loyal to each other, show compassion to all living beings, and keep promises even when it's difficult.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Callum, Iona, and Jeneba are kids with dreams, imaginations, and the purest of hearts. Though at first Callum is pressured by his friends to dismiss Iona as "crazy" and "strange," he befriends her and that changes everything. Callum's parents and Hamish, the local naturalist, make things right on the Scottish end; Max and Mama Binta support Jeneba in Gambia. Iris, the osprey, is the purest of all and pulls them all together.


Two 11-year-old friends get in a fistfight, and one gets punched in the nose. An osprey gets tangled in a fishing line, and later has to fight against wind, rain, desert sand, and the sea to survive. One young girl dies of meningitis, and another is recovering from two broken legs. 


Some belittling name calling, like "stupid," "no good," "thief," and so on, but nothing beyond that. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One of the main characters, Iona, has been abandoned by her mother and has to live with her grandfather, who generally reeks of whisky and is also senile. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book deals with some heavy material, including an endangered animal, and the death of a major character, who is a child.  Told in the voices of both an 11-year old boy and the female osprey he cares for, the narrative centers around the bird but also pulls together ideas about friendship, loyalty, and trust. Kids will learn about ospreys, their nesting habits and migration, as well as the kinds of high-tech tracking devices environmentalists use while observing wildlife -- and learn important lessons about compassion and kindness. Before the sudden death of Callum's friend, she is bullied by some classmates. Also, another character loses her legs to amputation.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 2, 6, and 9-year-old Written by3ofmine July 21, 2012

Great coming of age book

My son read this when he was eight and really liked it, it was his favorite book that he read that summer. It had adventure, hope, friendship, death and caring... Continue reading
Adult Written byCynthia Ingelfinger August 6, 2011

Rave review for Wild Wings

It was a moving story with great messages about hope, trust, and friendship. The natural history of ospreys and migration was very educational and engaging. It... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old December 29, 2013

Vividly Creative; For Animal and Nature-Lovers

It is very good; it is a vivid picture of how you can tackle obstacles in life, like the osprey did. Truly, nature lovers and animal lovers will love this! With... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 9, 2013

I loved this book

there might be some things that some parents don't like but Wild Wings is the best book i have ever put in my hands from the boys new best friend dying fro... Continue reading

What's the story?

Set primarily in rural Scotland, the adventure begins when Iona (a girl shunned as "crazy" and "strange" by her classmates) shows Callum an osprey nest she has spotted on his farm. These endangered birds live mostly on a nearby preserve, and it's unusual and very special for one to be nesting on private land. They decide they should keep the nest a secret, which tests Callum's other friendships. However, it also builds a strong bond between Callum and Iona, insures the safety of the osprey, and leads to an amazing adventure. Tragedy strikes Iona, but not before the two friends enlist the help of a nearby naturalist who untangles the bird from fishing line, and fits her with a transmitter to track her migration to Africa. From there, the adventure broadens: one friendship comes to a tragic end, other friendships are mended, and a new one brings a Gambian girl, and the osprey, back to Scotland.

Is it any good?

This suspenseful, fast-paced book is poetic and packed with solid information about wildlife. It's also a bit of a tearjerker. In language that manages to be both descriptive and to-the-point, WILD WINGS tells a moving story that borders on the unbelievable at times. Still, full-bodied characters and the author's attention to detail keep it grounded. This one will appeal to mid-grade boys and girls alike, especially animal lovers who will connect with its message about saving endangered wildlife.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about books that deal with death. Can you think of other books or movies that deal with a friend's death? How does this book handle this painful topic? Why did the author include this plot point?

  • What do you think of the book's title? Does it fit the story? What title would you have chosen for it?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

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