In this illustrated children’s book, a young osprey has an ethical dilemma.
In his debut novel, Oscar the Osprey: The Bird Who Was Afraid of Heights (2015), Polansky introduced his avian title character and explained how he dealt with his fear of heights. Oscar also bravely stayed at Jenny Lake for the winter while his flock migrated south, a feat that has transformed him from outcast to hero. But what only Oscar and the timber wolves know is that he actually found a safe spot a short distance from the lake, returning to it just before his flock flew north. The idea that a lie doesn’t matter if it doesn’t hurt anyone (voiced by a bear) seems plausible. But Oscar’s brother Otto, upset that he’s lost his leadership position among the young ospreys to Oscar, nearly drowns when he tries to prove himself by attempting to catch a strong and wily trout. And if ospreys believe the wolf leader’s self-serving claim that Oscar’s feat was easy, and “it would be a great idea if all you ospreys stayed through the winter,” the results could be disastrous. Oscar summons his courage and meets with the elders to tell the truth. In the end, Oscar understands that being honest is more important than heroism. Polansky lays out the complications of Oscar’s conundrum well; it’s not quite as simple as lie versus truth, especially in light of Oscar’s history of being ostracized for fear of heights. Young readers will appreciate the elders’ compassionate response. In a few cases, however, Polansky misrepresents ospreys for the sake of his fable. The birds rarely form large flocks in winter, for example. Also, it’s unfortunate to replicate human sexism in Otto’s comment that his sister Oprah is “no competition….She was just a girl.” (Female ospreys are generally larger than males.) The story is bolstered by Rosow’s black-and-white ink illustrations. Expressive and scribbly, as when a tangled cloud of frustration overhangs Oscar, these are somewhat reminiscent of Jules Feiffer’s work, but with more compact line work and an original flair.
A charming tale about deceit’s tangled web with textured, kinetic illustrations.