Axel is fascinated with an eagle family nesting in the woods behind his house. He loves all birds and everything about them, but checking in daily on the eaglet (eaglets?) and their parents is particularly meaningful. When a tornado decimates Axel’s neighborhood and injures one of the eaglets, his world is rocked. Under the capable hands of the local wildlife rehabilitation vet, Axel hopes the bird will heal. And in the meantime, his own broken family attempts to piece their home and their lives back together.
This book won the 2023 Schneider Family Book Award for its depiction of disability, in particular Axel’s point of view as an autistic kid. The book is written in third person, but focused from Axel’s POV, and it is a very intimate and effective narrative. Axel’s special interest in birds makes a lovely framework for the story. Each chapter opens with a poem about a bird that acts as lovely foreshadowing for the plot and themes to come. In that way, we process a lot of information in the same way Axel does.
The stories of Axel’s family and the eagle family are lovely parallels. Axel struggles to put these puzzles together with missing pieces: his father left, but it was to work out family issues; so why hasn’t he visited to do the work? Will the eaglet’s father and mother come back for their injured baby or are they gone too? Why does his mother treat Axel like a baby who can’t handle her secrets? How will his family rebuild after the tornado’s devastation?
This is a great book for older elementary and middle school readers, or anyone who loves birds, tales of family healing, and walking in someone else’s shoes. The audiobook is deftly and sensitively read by Jamie K. Brown.