A young osprey named Belle completes her first 4,000-mile solo migration from Massachusetts to South America and back. One spring, Dr. B., a scientist on Martha’s Vineyard who studies ospreys, selects Belle, a large, young female, to be equipped with a satellite transmitter dispatching messages tracking her movements every three days. By September, Belle has become an expert fish catcher and a strong flier, and she is poised for her migration south. Launching from Martha’s Vineyard, Belle flies nonstop for two days over the open Atlantic before resting on a cargo ship. Resuming her journey, Belle traverses a Bahamian island, Cuba, and the Caribbean Sea. A hurricane blows her into Colombia, and she eventually arrives in Brazil. A year and a half later, Belle returns to Martha’s Vineyard, taking an inland route to begin the next phase of her life. In this “mostly true story,” Bierregaard (the real Dr. B.) uses the real-life Belle, whose migration he tracked, to convey this lively, personalized look at migrating ospreys. Rendered in watercolor pencil, ink, and aqua crayon, the realistic, atmospheric illustrations rely on line and color to capture the drama of Belle’s amazing adventure. An engaging, informative introduction to ospreys for budding birders.
Jim Arnosky fans who are ready for a lengthier nature study will be inspired by this story, based on Bierregaard’s (or Dr. B., as he calls himself) study of osprey migration. Opening in Martha’s Vineyard, the lightly fictionalized account describes how Dr. B., his assistant, and two local children observe ospreys on the island before selecting a strong, healthy young female, Belle, to receive a transmitter that will record her location via satellite. The author interjects osprey facts in his lovely, and sometimes harrowing, descriptions of Belle’s first migration to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. After more than a year in South America, Belle feels a stirring inside and heads back to Martha’s Vineyard, where she eventually meets a mate. Beautiful, impressionistic mixed-media illustrations accompany Belle’s experiences, and readers will cheer for her survival against such forces as a hurricane and a seven-foot caiman. Extensive back matter includes more osprey and migration basics, related resources, and color photos of Bierregaard and the real Belle. An incredible journey for budding birders. –Booklist
Written in an easy-to-follow and authoritative style, this narrative nonfiction tale recounts the story of a young osprey from her early days in Martha’s Vineyard, MA, to her first migration to South America and back. Bierregaard, who has studied the birds for more than 40 years, explains that this is mostly a true story, but that he has imagined some of the details. He caught Belle as a young chick and fastened a radio transmitter to her (worn like a backpack), which sends an account of Belle’s travels to the scientist every three days. He knows where she’s been, how long it took her to reach certain places, and the weather she encounters along the way. Belle’s flight is an instinctual one, readers are told, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting. She travels many miles each day, survives a hurricane, visits the Japurá river in Brazil, and avoids threats from humans and other animals. Students will be easily caught up in Belle’s story, especially when she encounters dangers for the first time in her young life. Garchinsky’s illustrations—done in watercolor pencil, ink, and aqua crayons—are not only lovely to look at but match the book’s lively tone. There are also two photographs of the real-life Belle included at the end. VERDICT A page-turner for animal lovers, this book is a good choice for libraries in need of engrossing nonfiction.–School Library Journal