The Bottom Line
The second book in the Of the Wing trilogy, The Ivory-billed Obsession is appropriate for young readers with a passion for birds and adventure, but may disappoint older readers who can become bored with the somewhat unrelated, disjointed subplots and inconsistent actions. Taken as a lighthearted read, however, this book can be an enjoyable story that incorporates birds and birding in unique and thoughtful ways readers of all ages can appreciate.
- Good summary and character recap allows readers to understand and enjoy this book even if they have not read the previous volume of the trilogy.
- Mentions of multiple different birds and accurate species details throughout the book can captivate birding enthusiasts of any age.
- Includes a page for readers to begin their own life list with birding notes.
- Though richly vivid, the detailed descriptions can become overdone and tedious in places.
- Subplots not related to birding can put off readers primarily interested in a birding focus but serve to deepen characterizations and make the book more widely appealing to a young audience.
- Some character behaviors are inconsistent with their personalities as birders and their unrealistic actions can be tedious to readers who are dedicated birders.
- Title: Of the Wing: The Ivory-billed Obsession
- Author: Georgia Anne Butler
- Publisher: Pinchey House Press
- Publication Date: July 15, 2011
- Format: Softcover
- Page Count: 237
- ISBN: 978-0-9820342-2-4
- Price: $7.99
Review - Of the Wing: The Ivory-billed Obsession
Claire Belle, a young birder who “[keeps] birds in her heart” and has an amazing gift for attracting species to her because of that love, is back in the second book of author Georgia Anne Butler's Of the Wing trilogy. This time, Claire has a crush on a world famous ornithologist and seeks to impress him with her gift by attempting to attract the ivory-billed woodpecker during a weekend trip to the bird's last stronghold in Arkansas swamps. Her conflicting emotions about why to share her gift and whether that makes her less special turn the trip into a disappointment that every birder can relate to when others in her group have fantastic views of the bird, but she returns home without a sighting.
Despite the end result of rediscovering the highly sought after Lord God Bird, readers may find the book's title The Ivory-billed Obsession to be a misnomer as the truly obsessive hunt for the bird does not begin until more than halfway through the text. Like the bird itself, references to the famed woodpecker are fleeting and quickly gone before that point, and Butler focuses a great deal on other issues in Claire's life, including her friendships, connections to other birds and a continuing subplot about a criminal that featured more prominently in the first book. The events of The Ivory-billed Obsession take place roughly six months after Of the Wing: The Legend Begins, and while familiarity with that book will help readers orient themselves for this second installment, this book can stand alone with ease.
About more than just birds, this book touches on larger issues that will appeal widely to the young audience for which it is intended. Honesty, hero worship, faith, trust, friendship and loyalty are just a few of the themes the different characters struggle with, and Butler's rich details and carefully crafted personalities bring each theme into vivid focus for readers to explore. Serious birders, however, may be dissatisfied with some of those characters' actions, particularly Claire's, who shows little interest in new lifers other than the ivory-billed woodpecker and whose self-centered behavior makes her less likable overall, but is still understandable and familiar to a young audience. At the same time, Claire's realization of the power of her gift and how it works can give hope to any aspiring birder of any age. “Other people could draw birds to themselves, if only they knew.”
While some of Butler's writing in this book may seem stilted and crowded with description, and some transitions are choppy, younger readers will quickly get drawn into Claire's world of nature and the richness of the plants and animals that inhabit it. More advanced readers can enjoy The Ivory-billed Obsession as a light, entertaining read, and while overlooking some minor errors, can find themselves appreciating the heroine's unbridled enthusiasm for birds and relating to her crisis of conscience about herself and her birds, without losing their own obsession for whatever their personal grail bird may be.