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From YA novelist Hinton (Getting Free, 1979), expert and glowing anthropomorphism for adults, as a heroic hedge-sparrow survives a cruel English winter to mate and flourish. It's a bitterly cold January in a small valley in Kent, and many small birds and animals are dying because their food supply is buried under a deep snowfall; one such creature, a common dunnock (or sparrow), goes against her instincts and flies beyond the boundaries of her territory to find food and shelter in a barn owned by Mary and Thee Lawrence, an old couple who run a small farm. She gradually regains her strength as the spring comes on, and eventually mates; the result is four eggs she zealously guards in their nest in a low-lying hedge, only to see them shattered by a careless truck driver. While the dunnock is recovering from her loss, a female cuckoo makes an incredible (but, for her, routine) migratory journey from Africa to the tiny valley, arriving in high summer. By this time the dunnock has mated again and produced three more eggs; since the cuckoo is too lazy to build her own nest, she slips her egg in with the industrious dunnock's and flies away without a care in the world. The unfortunate dunnock labors to hatch all the chicks, but the baby cuckoo turns out to be a ravenous monster who kills two of the dunnock's young and almost gets the third, who finally triumphs by learning to fly and going off on his own, to start a new generation. Exhausted by all this, the female dunnock dies during an early frost, and is eaten by a fox. Like Knowler's The Falconer of Central Park in its effect, this is the kind of book that will make you look up and pay attention the next time you walk through the woods: worlds are being won and lost in all that peaceful green foliage.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1986
ISBN: 0897333608
Publisher: Harper & Row