Column Description: Join Alicia Abdul in each issue as she recommends a book or two through the lens of lifelong learning. Be it fiction or nonfiction, using a format like a verse or graphic novel, books can teach us, inspire us, and reconnect us. So, what better way to pay tribute to the things that keep us reading just one more chapter past our bedtime or that we can’t see over when stacked tall as we leave the library than hyping them here?

Maybe because I never had that phase when I was younger that I borrowed animal books like mad from the library I find myself as an adult voraciously reading animal books.

One author that perennially surprises me with her whimsical observations and philosophical look on what animals can teach humans is Sy Montgomery. She’s written for all age groups, but I first encountered her a few years back when she wrote The Soul of an Octopus: The Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness. Then I went back and read her whole booklist and am first in line when a new one comes out. Well, The Hawk’s Way: Encounters with Fierce Beauty published May 3rd and I read it soon after. This is a follow up to her first “pocket sized” book called The Hummingbird’s Gift: Wonder, Beauty, and Renewal on Wings which are both no more than 100 pages and pointedly share the awe of the animal and what people and she learned while caretaking or connecting with them. 

In The Hawk’s Way, Montgomery adamantly professes what was reiterated to her with experts in falconry: a hawk will never and can never be a pet. What anyone earns by working with a hawk is status as a servant of their needs because one wrong move could mean the pluck of an eyeball from a socket or dripping blood from wounds from their talons. They are fierce. They are determined. They are wild. They will remain forever wild even in the most caring of circumstances. You can bedeck them in hoods and caps to calm them, you can feed them, but they want to fly and they want to hunt. 

I love this animal imagery to reflect on. What am I naturally inclined to do? And do I put my energy into that daily, weekly, monthly, yearly? I can say I do. When people proclaim they don’t have enough time to read and they envy how many books I read, I tell them that I make time to do it because I love it. When there is quiet time, I don’t turn on the TV, I don’t mellow out to music, I reach for the closest book. At lunch time, I read. It was what I did in the middle of the pandemic and continue to do. It’s what I do when no one is looking

Are you being your own hawk?

Alicia Abdul has worked as a high school librarian for the City School District of Albany since 2007. Her contributions to the profession include reviewing for SLJ, SLC, and VOYA, serving on YALSA committees, and presenting at local, state, and national conferences on books, programs, and graphic novels. She has a keen interest in writing and contributes to the Albany Times Union’s books blog and manages her own at along with being published with the Nerdy Book Club, SLC, and in SLJ. You can usually find her at home with her family drinking tea and baking while looking for a dress to buy.