Feb 23, 2015

Charlie's Raven

by Jean Craighhead George

Charlie is visiting his grandparents for the summer, who lives in a small cabin near Yellowstone National Park. Charlie's beloved grandfather is suffering from a long-term illness. His friend from the local Sioux tribe, Singing Bird, is studying to be a storyteller among her people. She tells him of a legend that the presence of ravens can heal people. So Charlie steals a baby raven from a nest, and brings it home. His grandparents chastise him, but Grandfather (a retired naturalist) lets him keep the bird if he will make it part of a scientific study. So Charlie begins keeping notes, caring for the bird and closely observing its behavior as it grows.

Charlie is confronted with opposing opinions about ravens by those around him. Singing Bird says they are good luck. His grandfather admires their intelligence. And a new neighbor claims they are omens of evil, wants to drive them off his land. Charlie determines to find out for himself if ravens are "good" or "bad" by tallying up incidents in his notebook. Along the way he learns a lot about raven behavior and communication. He ends up with a mystery to solve too, when the raven comes of age and nobody knows where it goes (this continues part of a study his grandfather had given up on years ago). There's also a puzzle of why his grandfather's health seems to improve only on days the raven visits him in the mornings, and a problem to resolve with their neighbor who wants to shoot the ravens. It's a decent story, and I learned some things about ravens myself (the book even gives nod to Bernd Heinrich!) Some of the resolutions are a bit too convenient, but I liked it regardless. (It reminded me a lot of Coyote for Keeps, even though I haven't read that book in ages).

Rating: 3/5       190 pages, 2004

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