Wild Wings



Tender tween tale of endangered wildlife, friend's death.

What parents need to know

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

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. 

Not applicable

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

Not applicable
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. 

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Gill Lewis
Illustrator:Yuta Onoda
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:May 24, 2011
Number of pages:304
Read aloud:8
Read alone:10

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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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 all in one. He couldn't stop talking about when he had read each day.
Kid, 12 years old July 10, 2011

An eye-opening tale

This is a great story! Wild Wings is set in Scotland, and there is a little about Scotland that people from other countries may not know, but most of the special Scottish info you may want to discover is not given. This is NOT where the educational value comes in. The book manages to slip in little facts about ospreys and African culture during the story. Throughout the story there is an environmental message. The osprey which Callum and Iona discover is an endangered animal, and there is a lot about why ospreys need to be kept safe. Also, when Callum makes contact with an African girl, and discovers that, due to the insufficient medical care in her village, she is going to have her leg amputated, there is a lot about helping people you don't know well when Callum's town raises money so she can come to Britain and get medical care. There are some good role models in this story, but they are "role models" mostly in the environmental sense. They are regular kids who act badly sometimes in other ways, but Calluma and Iona really care about the ospreys. I rated this book "pause" for age nine instead of "on" because, while I feel that most nine year olds would be fine with Wild Wings, more sensitive kids may not. One of the main important characters dies halfway through the book, causing even more stress when one of the ospreys is suspected to have died. Parents should know that the osprey does not, in fact, die, but does get fairly bedraggled. This book has appeal to both boys and girls, there being more boys than girls, but all the girls are very important to the plot, and are fun, spunky, believable characters.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
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 a share of mystery, adventure, sadness, it is funny and fun!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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