Incident at Hawk’s Hill (1972 Newbery Honor)

This is one of those books that challenges your opinions, stirs your emotions, and lingers in your mind long after you’ve read the last word. Set in late 19th century, the story tells of 6-year-old Ben, a boy who is small and unusual. Rarely does he talk to people, but prefers the outdoors and the company of animals. His ability to mimic the sounds and movements of even the smallest creature is considered an oddity by not only the neighbors, but also his father. When he becomes lost in the prairie, an unlikely bond with a female badger proves instrumental in saving his life.

The author offers a fascinating look into both the ways of nature, and the instincts and mannerisms of badgers. Ben’s portrayal, and the delicate handling of the child and the father’s sentiments are moving. Also, the author plainly gives credit to God for Ben’s miraculous survival. However, a reluctant reader may not have the patience for the slow start to the story – the “adventure” occurs in the latter part of the book. Sensitive readers and animal lovers should beware: the book does have several segments that are uncomfortable to read (the trapping and killing of some animals, the skinning of another, and Ben’s “dining” on disgusting badger food).

There’s no doubt stomachs will churn at some passages, but hopefully the gross parts won’t stop you from enjoying this book with your age appropriate children – Incident at Hawk’s Hill is one piece of literature that would be a shame to pass by.

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