by Katherine L. Holmes
Silver Knight Publishing 04/16/2013
Age 8 to 13 190 pages
“Ten-year-old Ginny and her mother are opening up the cabin where her family stays during the summer. On an otherwise quiet day, Ginny hears a male loon, Yudel, sparring with a younger bird over territory. Canoeing with her friend, Wes, Ginny discovers a loon nest on an island. They quickly find themselves protecting the defenseless eggs against predators. On a later visit, Ginny finds Yudel drifting in the water, a fishing line trailing from his beak. Ginny’s attachment to the loons brings her to find inner strength.”
During the summer, the loons raise three loonlings. Now faced with many dangers, Yudel and his mate, Owala, will put their courage to the test. Follow the journey of Ginny and the loons as their stories unite . . .”
“Owala the loon glided with the gusts above northern forest. She was nearing the end of her spring migration. As the wind buffeted her, Owala gazed at lakes studded with fir and pine. Some of the lakes looked like blue eggs of the sky. At Lake Song-of-the-Sky, her summer home, she would dive into the pine-colored water that she loved”
The Wide Awake Loons has two stories: one about Ginny and her friends, the other about 2 loons, Owala and Yudel, surviving the summer and starting a new family. I like how the author wove these two tales together over the loon eggs, though I must confess, I liked the scenes concerning the loons the best. Ginny is one star of the tale. She makes the conscience decision to protect the loons and their eggs, once she spies them on Wide Awake Island. The island, in the middle of the Lake Song-of-the-Sky, is small and uninhabited. Loons have always used the island as a mating place, but in recent years, the encroachment of civilization ran off most of the loons. Today only two males call the island their summer home: Yudel and his brother Lale.
Ginny and her parents arrive every summer to a small cabin. Ginny’s best friend is Nettie, but she would be late this year. Ginny plays with her younger brother Wes, usually rowing along the shore of the lake. One day Wes takes Ginny to the small island, where she sees loon eggs and a snapping turtle eager to make the 3eggs lunch. She and Wes capture the turtle, dragging it to the farthest part of the lake, making it difficult for the turtle to return.
Loons are afraid of humans because of the horrible things they had seen humans do. So when Ginny and Wes first appear on the island the loons are terrified. Once the kids remove the turtle, the wary loons are surprised but remain afraid of humans. I thought this was an interesting way to mix these two stories. The various birds and animals keep watch of the humans and harmful animals, reporting to each other and the loons. The animals accepting each other for how they are, is a nice touch, especially in comparison to humans. . Animals appreciated their own dependable nature. The snapping turtle talked to the other animals, even when they knew his intention was to eat the loon eggs. They knew this because that is what snapping turtles do: they eat loon eggs. The animals also warn the loons.
Humans are not that predictable. One is bad, another is good, and then a third may be good but suddenly does something bad. The unpredictable-ness of humans is what frightens the loons. The story has this nice pull between the animal world and the human world. The kids help with the snapping turtle made the loons happy, yet confused, but they never let go of their fear.
The scene I liked the most is when a fishing hook catches Yudel in his mouth. The only creature who can help him is the damselfly, but she is terrified because it is a loon’s nature to eat the damselfly. She has a hard time believing Yodel will keep his jaw open. But if he does not go against his nature and keep his mouth open, he will die, as he cannot eat. Can an animal actually go against its nature, and if it does, does it become unpredictable, like humans. I doubt this is the point of the story, but it is what I took from it.
The writing in excellent. This is no surprise as Ms. Holmes first novel, The House in Windward Leaves, was excellent and up for Best Book of 2013. I think kids will enjoy this story, as will adults. There is no violence in the story. No loon eggs hurt, no animal dies, and Ginny and her friends have memorable summers. Kids will not have any trouble keeping up with the weaving of two stories into one, though I suspect they will enjoy the loon side much more. If you enjoy great writing and a light but interesting plot, you will love The Wide Awake Loons.
Learn more about The Wide Awake Loons HERE.
THE WIDE AWAKE LOONS. Text copyright © 2013 by Katherine L. Holmes. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Silver Knight Publishing,
Also by Katherine L. Holmes
The House in Windward Leaves © 2011 (read the review HERE)
2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards – Finalist in Fiction
2013 National Indie Excellence Book Awards – Finalist Juvenile Fiction
The Swan Bonnet © 2010
Curiosity Killed the Sphinx and Other Stories © 2102
Other fiction and several poems. (see author’s website)
top – Nesting Loon – (C) Dana Moos from Southwest
middle – Pacific Loon – (C) The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
bottom – Baby Loons Riding on Parent Loon – (C) Pete Markham from Loretto, USA