illustrations by Meilo So
The New York Times Best illustrated book
In “Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City,” Janet Schulman tells the story of the city’s most popular predator since Michael Milken with more detail and verbal grace.
She doesn’t offer new information about this urban nature story, but her language is sophisticated and wry.
Less than 2 years old when he was first spotted, Schulman writes, Pale Male “hung around the park the way a teenager hangs out at a mall.” The hawk “dive-bombed tasty pigeons and rats at their litter-can snack bars. He chased after ducks and was spotted terrorizing squirrels, seemingly just for the fun of it.”
There’s a thread of snarky social commentary, as well, about the attempts by the residents of the fancy building to get rid of the nest — which, she writes, “seemed like such a heartless act coming from people living in their own well-feathered nests.”
The watercolor illustrations, by Meilo So, are luminous, the colors seeming to shine through the pages like a sunrise through stained glass. From the book’s aerial perspective, the city buildings around Central Park are gray, and the fall colors jump out, as they must for the hawks flying above.
Pale Male and his current mate, Lola, continue to live at their fancy Fifth Avenue building. Their offspring live all over the city now. And young readers can learn that even in the heart of the metropolis, wild nature is never far away.
New York Times