This book is probably a masterpiece, definitely a very good story for young teenagers who love animals and wild life. The whole story is told from the point of view of a young girl who is under the normal size for her age. She is thus “special.” And this is both a cause of some difficulty in her life and the cause of her greatest happy development (that I will not reveal).
Matica is the daughter of a preacher, Crayn, from Australia and German descent who has moved to the Andes in Peru and is practicing his religious vocation in an Indian village. Her mother is Mira and she has a brother Aikon. Due to her reduced size she is considered as special by the Indians in the village and thus kept at a distance as if some ancient superstition were attached to her short size. They did not speak to her and kept her at a distance, in spite of the religious position of her father that was accepted by all. At first I was surprised by this idea of having a whole family of European origin and arriving from Australia playing the role of spiritual guides in an Indian village up in the Peruvian Andes. “Mondele makasi!” as they say in Kinshasa in the local language Lingala. And everyone starts laughing since it means, word for word “Whites, the force!” and in Star Wars dialect it would be “The Force were with the Whites!” Note the ironic past subjunctive.
But the story becomes likable very fast because it centers on a couple of condors who are laying and then sitting on an egg and this event is a rare event in condors’ life: once every two years. Condors are an endangered species particularly due to poachers who steal their eggs. It is not clearly said why, though we can understand it is not to make any omelet. The girl is going to become the friend of the condors and she will save the egg stolen by the poachers and hidden in the mountain when the condors attacked the poachers. This adventure of becoming friends of a wild endangered species of carrion-eaters, hence taming them without depriving them of their freedom and wild life, is described in detail and becomes fascinating. And at this moment the story becomes charming because this girl is going to look after the egg and take care of the hatching of the chick and later on of the raising of it till he, since it is a male, is finally able to fly and his first flight will not be easy.
We are in this story halfway between the adventure of a wild life defender and Alice in Wonderland. That makes it ethical and entertaining for young teenagers. Though the story is told in the third person it contains a great majority proportion of dialogues which makes it dynamic and easy to enter because then each character speaks in their own first persons. To do good is important and has to be taught to younger people, yet I always remember that advice I met in Africa or Asia, but also in California: never ever feed wild animals (think of the Gremlins of a famous film, though then it was “after midnight”), no matter how much they beg or woo. I remember the camping site in the protected wild life area in the Californian Gold Rush Diggins where the wild life rangers told us clearly not to leave anything edible outside of or unlocked in metal trunks or other suitcases and bags during the night or even during the day because most wild animals are scavenging, be they little black Californian bears or deer, etc. They must not be able to have access to human food.
In some situations, it can become extremely dangerous, like trying to feed some wild nocturnal elephants in Sri Lanka. That disturbs wild life and at the same time these nocturnal elephants disturbed in the daytime by diurnal humans can become very violently defensive. But I guess a little bit of dream is not so bad for young teenagers: they will learn a more realistic approach later. The main lesson is that poaching is an unredeemable act that has to be condemned and prosecuted. That has to be learned at a very young age because young people can be very cruel with wild animals from small insects to bigger animals they may hunt or fish in the most useless and wasteful way possible and imaginable. Hunting and fishing should be banned as a free even regulated activity and should only exist within a conservatory action to keep natural wild elements balanced, though it is rather difficult to convince Sri Lankans that wild elephants have to be protected, or any people in Africa or Asia that wild felines, lions, panthers or tigers, have to be seen as friendly and be treated as such, like for example “have a wild lion in your backyard” or “spend the night with a nice wild cobra,” or as for that a wild rattlesnake.
So let your young teenagers at home and at school read this book, and then make them do some research and have some discussions, confrontations or fora to elaborate on how we can save wild species that are on the brink of extinction, like the way the Chinese are saving the panda bear in China.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
5.0 out of 5 stars Fly me to the sky, Condor!
By Dr Jacques COULARDEAU on December 30, 2016