Review Blog

Feb 17 2020

The Good Hawk by Joseph Elliott

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Walker Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781406385854. 368pp.
(Age: Upper primary - secondary) Highly recommended. The Good Hawk by Joseph Elliott has a solid central character in Agatha. It is a fantasy story where two friends are forced to leave their ravaged home and travel to distant, frightening places that are shrouded in dark history and mystery. The use of the Scottish-Gaelic and Old Norse language throughout adds to the ethereal, otherworldly atmosphere of this tale.
Agatha is a loyal and steadfast character who perseveres against all odds to defend and uphold her clan and her friends. We hear her pure and unaffected voice in the first person. She stutters but she expresses herself with the clarity of the innocent. She sees through people to their true core and she has a special and unique skill - communication with animals. Early on the reader hears that she is teased - told that she should have been thrown off a cliff as a babe. We read that she looks different. We understand that she has a disability, that she is not able to do some things and that people think they can't rely on her. But she has a steely pride - she is a Hawk. Jamie is her friend with his own fears and undiscovered strengths.
Their journey to rescue their clan takes supreme courage in the face of fearsome obstacles, the out-and-out brutality of evil foes and frightening mystical, wild, primeval forces.
There is consideration of the alternative perspectives of all manner of cultural and societal beliefs and practices as our two heroes encounter extraordinarily outlandish good and evil characters during their journey. Love remains demonstratively pure and powerful throughout.
This book is not for the faint hearted but it is redemptive. Elliott's depiction of a heroine with Down's syndrome is wonderful. I agree with Katya Balen, author of The Space We're In in her praise for Elliott's portrayal of Agatha. She is indeed . . . "the sort of hero children's literature has been lacking for too long."
The Good Hawk is a swashbuckling adventure set in a fantasy world somewhere up in the North Sea in the vicinity of the Isle of Skye, Scotland and Norway; The Space We're In is more domestic. Both books are powerful portrayals of lived disability. They will surprise and grip the reader. The gap that has existed for books about heroes with disabilities is at last being addressed and it is a very good thing.
I highly recommend both books to Upper Primary and Senior School students. Teacher's notes are available.
Wendy Jeffrey

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