Borden Watson hates spotted owls, and with good reason: his logger father lost his job because efforts to protect the endangered birds has stopped all cutting of trees in northern California's old-growth forests. Angry, the boy is determined to kill any spotted owl he sees. While in the forest on his mission of revenge, Borden discovers a spotted owlet that has fallen from his nest. Unaware that the baby is one of the detested species, he takes him home and names him Bardy, believing the bird to be a barred owl. While his father at first protests, he gradually becomes fond of the owlet. Since Borden and his older sister Sally are busy with school and their mother Cindy works, it falls to Leon Watson to feed and care for Bardy. As the owl grows and becomes stronger, the family realizes the day is approaching when they must return him to the forest--and it comes sooner than the Watsons expect, for Leon learns there is a hefty fine for anyone who kills or possesses an endangered animal. Borden makes another discovery: Bardy is developing spots as his adult feathers grow in. The truths he has been learning about the consequences of logging practices on spotted owls, and their domino effect on other industries and individuals, have given Borden and his parents and sister much to think about.
Jean Craighead George masterfully tells Borden's and Bardy's thoughtful story from the point of view of both people and owls:
"Bardy felt the warmth of Sally's body and snuggled against her. He rolled under his sharp claws so he would not injure her, just as his mother had done when she came into the nest.
"Leon observed this without comment. Then he put on his slicker and went out into the pouring rain [to catch mice for Bardy]."
Black-and-white illustrations by Christine Herman Merrill perfectly capture the mood of the story. This novel is valuable for class units on the environment and ecosystems and Earth Month, and is a good choice for a read-aloud. It will attract readers who enjoy stories with a message. Ages 8-11