Great Illustrated Books

Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City

By Janet Schulman, Illustrated by Meilo So

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2008
Pages : 40
Suggested Ages: 6-10
ISBN: 9780375945588

Starting with the day in 1991 that the young red-tailed hawk arrived in Central Park, this appealing and informative nonfiction picture book chronicles the life, loves, and troubles of Pale Male in New York City. Bird watchers were in thrall when the hawk and his mate built a nest on a ledge above a twelfth floor window of a toney apartment building on Fifth Avenue, but the eggs failed to hatch. When the building management removed the nest, people were outraged, but the hawks built a new one in the same spot the following spring, and hatched 23 chicks over the next nine years. In 2004, the nest was removed again, sparking protests, newspaper headlines, and the scorn of the nation, persuading the building owners to back down. Since then, Pale Male and his offspring have prevailed, and bird-lovers will cheer.

Of all the children's books about Pale Male, including two excellent picture books—City Hawk by Meghan McCarthy and The Tale of Pale Male by Jeanette Winter—Schulman's book is the most detailed and comprehensive. Her engrossing prose and So's engaging watercolors will make you want to hightail it over to the Big Apple with a pair of binoculars. In her Author's Note, she talks about Central Park being one of the 14 best places in the U.S. to birdwatch, and that 275 different species have been identified there. You can see spectacular close-up color photos of Pale Male taken by bird-lovers since 2002 at Why not dig out the binoculars and lead a little birdwatching expedition with your children, who can draw or photograph the birds they spot in the neighborhood. (I picked up a tiny pair of binoculars at a sports store recently for a mere $15. For that price, get a pair for each of your kids to see the smaller things around them close up.) City dwellers will be amazed at the places birds choose, as described in Barbara Bash's Urban Roosts: Where Birds Nest in the City. Robert J. Blake's lovely wordless picture book Fledgling depicts a kestrel aloft in Brooklyn.

Reviewed by : JF.


If you love this book, then try:

Bash, Barbara. Urban Roosts: Where Birds Nest in the City. Little, Brown, 1990.

Blake, Robert J. Fledgling. Philomel, 2000.

Davies, Nicola. White Owl, Barn Owl. Candlewick, 2007.

Demuth, Patricia Brennan. Cradles in the Trees: The Story of Bird Nests. Macmillan, 1994.

Florian, Douglas. On the Wing: Bird Poems and Paintings. Harcourt, 1996.

George, Kristine O'Connell. Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems. Harcourt, 2004.

Hall, Bruce Edward. Henry and the Kite Dragon. Philomel, 2004.

McCarthy, Meghan. City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male. Simon & Schuster, 2007.

Schaefer, Lola M. Arrowhawk. Henry Holt, 2004.

Wells, Rosemary. The Language of Doves. Dial, 1996.

Winter, Jeanette. The Tale of Pale Male: A True Story. Harcourt, 2007.

Yolen, Jane. Bird Watch: A Book of Poetry. Philomel, 1990.

Critics have said

This version stands out for its urbane, reportorial prose and stylish watercolors ... by the final page, even readers who live far from Manhattan will appreciate that Pale Male's significance and stature rise well beyond those of media darling.
Publishers Weekly
Beautiful contrasting views of the bird soaring above the wild park and the forest of the skyscrapers will ignite children's curiosity in both urban animals and the caring people who help protect them.
[Schulman's] language is sophisticated and wry . . . [and] the watercolor illustrations, by Meilo So, are luminous.
New York Times Book Review