Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New Today: Pale Male by Janet Schulman

I can’t think of another wildlife story that has captured the hearts and imaginations of New Yorkers in quite the same way. Since the red-tailed hawk known as Pale Male started squatting on a posh Fifth Avenue apartment building with a series of partners and their offspring in the early 1990s the story has reached epic proportions. Pale Male’s story has all of the elements of a good hero’s tale. Pale Male has had to overcome incredible adversary -- and nasty co-op boards -- in order to get the simple things that we all want: a quiet haven, a comfy nest and, occasionally, an unsuspecting pigeon or maybe a nice, fat squirrel. Viewed from that angle, it seems inevitable that the legend and the poetry that have accompanied Pale Male’s rising fame should inspire a book. Or three.

New today is Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City (Knopf Delacorte Dell). Author Janet Schulman brings obvious passion and a great deal of knowledge to her telling, but it strikes me that the quasi journalistic tone she’s taken here might have been better served by a different presentation. Young readers who persevere will learn an awful lot about Pale Male, his challenges, calamities and triumphs, however Meilo So’s watercolor illustrations leave one expecting a very different sort of book. The paintings, while certainly competent, are also somewhat vapid. I find it difficult to imagine the child who would be captivated by what they see in this book. Schulman’s well-researched and organized material might have been better served by photo-based illustrations or even something a little less amorphous than what we find here. As it is, the package presents a somewhat confusing message, one I’m not sure the younger children in the book’s ages six-to-12 year readership will understand, or that the older ones will sit still to listen to.

Still, of the three children’s books published on this topic in the last 12 months, Schulman’s is by far the strongest editorially. If you want the Pale Male’s tale with all the nuances intact, this is the place to look.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw a wonderful painting of Pale Male at www.lureofthefalcon.blogspot.com - along
with other raptors.
There are not a lot of quality paintings of Pale
Male, surprisingly, many artists are a bit afraid of
the challenge of painting birds because of the detail,
and when they do, as the reviewer noted of the ones
in the book, they end up vapid.

Saturday, June 4, 2011 at 9:46:00 AM PDT  

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