Saturday, March 5, 2016

Hawk by Jennifer Dance

Hawk is a First Nations teen track star hoping to win an upcoming meet in his town in Canada.  Recently, Hawk has been running out of energy while training with his best friend and when he finally gets to the doctor to figure out what's happening, he learns that he has leukemia and is facing several years of hard treatment to save his life.   He has never felt close to his parents who gave him over to his grandfather when he was young because they didn't feel prepared to raise a baby.  So Hawk is happy when his grandfather comes to stay with them during some of his treatment.  Soon after he arrives the family goes out to an event where his father works with a logging company.  Hawk and his grandfather see an osprey get stuck in an oily pond, the result of the toxic runoff from the logging.  The two rescue the osprey and Hawk begins to have dreams about it that seem to mirror his own path with leukemia.  

I was all in on this book for about the first third even as the story of the osprey broke my heart a couple of times.  I love the juxtaposition of the fish hawk's story with Hawk's own journey and I was moved by the rape of the land where Hawk's dad worked.  I could even see how the explanation of what the company was doing to counteract the mess they were making made sense to those who worked there.  Hawk's grandfather felt a little heavy-handed at times, especially as the story went on.  The environmental themes were so nicely interwoven at the beginning of the book without coming across as "here is a lesson you must learn".  I was thinking particularly about how moved my students would be by the ospreys' losses without realizing they were reading a story about the environment.  But later the book became more didactic and less fun.  Still, Hawk's growing relationship with his parents and his friendship in the hospital ward felt realistic and not forced.  I just wish the overall book had been shorter and more focused like the initial chapters.

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