Still grieving his father's death and determined to follow in his footsteps by also winning first place in the annual West Plains Science Symposium, seventh-grade birder Eddie Wilson searches for the golden eagle his father claimed to have seen on its migration past their small Indiana town.
Not only does the white boy’s goal seem unlikely, it seems Mr. Dover, his science teacher, doesn't like him either. He assigns Eddie to work with the "overgrown ogre" Mouton. This unpredictable classmate, whose Tourette's syndrome results in annoying verbal tics, was a preschool friend but has been bullying him since kindergarten. Eddie would much rather be working with his new neighbor and classmate, dark-skinned Gabriela, who’s just come from Brazil with her deaf and mute father and their scarlet macaw, Silvio. Eddie's first-person narration is partly storytelling with dialogue and partly interior monologue—a technique that allows Wymer to weave in plenty of birding detail, including mnemonic bird sounds. Alas, Eddie’s story doesn't hang together very well. The narrator is perhaps too unreliable; events seem arbitrary, interesting threads are developed and dropped, and Eddie recovers surprisingly quickly, and offstage, when Mouton lets him down. The narrative voice is not convincing and the ending too upbeat.
Like Eddie’s project, not a blue-ribbon entry but a worthwhile effort. (Fiction. 8-12)