My friend, Squeeky, and I were talking about movie titles. I’d mentioned to her that so many Disney movies used the same type of title. My parents made some of those movies and they had titles like, “Greta, the Misfit Greyhound”, “Twister, the Bull from the Sky”, “Chester, Yesterday’s Horse”, and perhaps my favorite, “Stormy, the Thoroughbred with an Inferiority Complex”.
Not only did Squeeky tell me about “Victor, the Reluctant Vulture”, but one day I found a package in my mail and opened it to find that book.
Let me tell you right now that this is a “kid’s” book. The jacket explains that it’s written for “late primary and intermediate readers”. Well, I must be one of those for, although I could tell who it was written for, as I immersed myself in the pages of this beautifully illustrated story, I was enthralled. Its humor started with the very first sentence, in which the title-bird realizes just what is expected to be his diet. That humor continues through the book as Victor learns to fly and begins to gain an appreciation of his important place in the scheme of things.
Maybe it’s because my own kids, Janet and Hooper, were raised on reading and road-kill but, sitting by myself, I found I was chuckling aloud at several places including the only line I’ll directly quote: When Victor returns home late after battling to try and become something he’s not, his kindly mother asks him, “Would you like me to regurgitate something for you, Dear?”
In good cartoon tradition, all of the Vultures’ names begin with “V”. Victor’s wiseass brother is “Vinnie”, his father is “Vern” and his kindly uncle is “Vlad”. The Red Tailed hawks’ names all begin with “R”, and the Harris’ Hawks with “H”. There’s also an erudite Peregrine falcon named Percival.
I absolutely loved this book. Not only does it contain a perfectly crafted story that teaches about the “circle of life” and the importance of every creature, but it also contains wonderful natural history lessons, including a great Appendix and Glossary at the end.
Many of the Tailwheeler’s Journal readers and subscribers are parents, aunts, uncles or friends of just the people for whom this book was written. I can’t recommend it highly enough. And if you do get it for someone else, be sure you take the time to read it yourself!
Victor the Reluctant Vulture
By Jonathan Hanson
Illustrated by Kim Kanoa Duffeck
Published by The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Press (www.desertmuseum.org) and available from the publisher or other outlets, including Amazon.com.