Wounded Falcons


author: Jairo Buitrago

translator (from Spanish): Elisa Amado

illustrator: Rafael Yockteng

Groundwood Books, 2021 

grades 3-up

“It was a bad day at school.” Young Adrián’s face is bloody and bruised, his shirt is torn, and his fists are clenched with rage. It’s always a bad day at school. Adrián gets into trouble with everyone—except his friend, Santiago, who never has any problems and never has any bad days. Yet the two are friends.

Before going home, the two friends sit in the middle of a garbage-strewn empty lot “that doesn’t belong to anyone, where no one ever comes.” In a clump of grass, Adrián finds a young, wounded falcon, scared and unable to fly. The boy wraps the bird in his jacket to keep her warm, and promises to take care of her.

At home, Adrián looks to his mother for advice about curing the bird’s broken wing—but receives instead a mean-spirited promise: We already know what happened at school…Later, your father will give you what you deserve. The next day, Adrián skips school and meets up with Santiago in the empty lot “where no one ever comes.” Santiago takes him and the falcon to someone who “cures broken bones”—and pays for the treatment with his Christmas money. Together, the two friends gently care for the wounded falcon. And in science class, “even though the others laugh and whisper,” Adrián speaks for the first time, giving a talk “about birds of prey, about their strength, about their beauty.”

Adrián encloses the falcon and her nest in a box he has built and sets it in a tree. When he is sad, he visits with the falcon: “They know each other, they can feel their hearts beating when they are together.” 

Weeks later, there is a storm—and the two friends discover that “the falcon has gone with the squalls of rain and the wind.” The next day, they go back to the lot “that belongs to no one, where no one comes.” They look up and see a falcon—like a bolt of lightning—dive from the sky, grab a pigeon in flight—and scream to salute them. Santiago sees tears on his friend’s cheeks: “his friend who never cries, not even when they were both little children.” As the two friends silently go home,

Santiago thinks that Adrián has a big heart, even if he gets into trouble. Tomorrow when they leave school to go to the empty lot that belongs to no one, where no one comes, maybe they can see the falcon hunting again, and they will be closer than ever.

Young readers will intuit that the title—Wounded Falcons—refers to both the bird of prey and the bullied child. For the falcon and Adrián—both wounded and now healing—it will be a good day.

Buitrago’s sparse descriptions and economy of words—together with Yockteng’s digitally-created illustrations that resemble pen-and-ink drawings—lay out the scenarios and encourage young readers to draw their own interpretations and conclusions. The final illustration will surprise them. 

Wounded Falcons is highly recommended for home, school and library collections.

—Beverly Slapin

(published 9/18/2021)

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