In Polansky’s debut book for young readers, ospreys are kings of the air. So what happens to a young osprey who’s afraid to fly?
This book tells the story of young Oscar the osprey from the very first moments of his life (“it took a while before I could see anything without squinting,” he says). While still a chick, he has the traumatic experience of almost falling out of his nest, and from that moment on, he grapples with crippling anxiety about heights—a serious handicap for a creature designed to fly in order to fish, migrate, and make his home in trees. Necessity is the mother of invention, so Oscar methodologically figures out how to live life with his disability and how to survive mostly alone when the other ospreys migrate south for the winter. The book is divided into chapters, and although they’re unnumbered and there’s no table of contents, it has the slimness and large pages of a picture book. It also has copious illustrations by Rosow, whose expressive line drawings are wonderfully reminiscent of both Jules Feiffer and Shel Silverstein. The book’s format may prove confounding for readers, or the parents of readers, seeking books for specific reading levels. However, its refusal to fit into neat categories is characteristic of its protagonist. In the end, this isn’t a story about Oscar forcing himself to change in order to fit into the way the world works. Rather than triumphing in a predictable way over his limitations, Oscar intriguingly learns to adapt to them and even turn them into strengths. He finds that his unique perspective gives him special abilities that are valued by his family and friends: “I never could fly above a low level without squinting….One thing was certain though; at a low level, I was the best there was.”
A sympathetic hero, engaging illustrations, and a strong message make this book a must-have for families, schools, and communities with differently abled kids.