The Hawk of the Castle

The  Hawk of the Castle
by Danna Smith
illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
published by Candlewick Press
April 2017
Nonfiction Picture Book
Ages 4 and up
ISBN-10: 0763679925
ISBN-13: 978-0763679927

Gentle verse and sweeping, majestic artwork set imaginations soaring in a handsome and illuminating ode to the ancient art of falconry.

Join a young girl and her father, the falconer at a medieval castle, as they experience the joys of taking a goshawk out for a training flight. The girl leads readers through all the preparations and equipment needed for the flight — from the hawk’s hood and bells to the falconer’s glove — culminating in a dramatic demonstration of the hawk’s hunting skill. Bagram Ibatoulline’s masterful illustrations capture the vivid details and beauty of a day spent hawking, while Danna Smith’s poetic storytelling will make readers long to experience the art and sport of falconry firsthand.


Kids will have fun testing their falconry knowledge after reading The Hawk of the Castle with this comprehension Q&A. And little readers will enjoy this castle maze.

  • Starred Review School Library Journal
  • Starred Review Publishers Weekly
  • 2018 Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of the Year
  • Junior Library Guild Selection
  • National Council for the Social Studies Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
  • Imagination Soup’s Best Nonfiction Books of 2017
  • Chicago Public Library Best Books for Children and Teens
  • Rhyme Revolution’s Best in Rhyme Award Top 20 List
Booklist 2/22/2017 The fictional narrative gives the book structure, while the details of falconry add interest and purpose. In the author’s note, Smith tells of learning “the ancient sport” from her father, a falconer. A beautifully designed and illustrated volume.
Kirkus Reviews 12/20/2016 A trained hawk serves as fierce centerpiece to broad, sweeping views of castle and countryside in this rhapsodic tribute to the craft of falconry…An idyllic picture of an ancient practice.
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books 3/23/2017 Ibatoulline’s lush, painterly spreads work in harmony with the text, tantalizing viewers with visual details of the garb and accouterments (both bird’s and falconer’s) of the sport, and immediately supplying answers as quickly as a listener can formulate a question.
San Francisco Chronicle 6/29/2017 Here a Northern California author writes with special affection for falconry…Both enthusiastic and knowledgeable about this ancient sport, Smith concludes with a caveat: “Birds of prey must always be treated with care and respect.”
Buffalo News 4/27/2017 Acclaimed artist Bagram Ibatoulline takes us back to medieval times with his glorious, detailed paintings in this fascinating story about falconry, as told by the young daughter of the falconer at a castle.
Publishers Weekly (starred review) 2/10/2017 Ibatoulline’s (The Matchbox Diary) stunningly realistic acrylic and gouache scenes illustrate from all angles, offering close-ups of the hawk, pastoral panoramas, and breathtaking aerial vistas…What young readers may appreciate most, though, is the story, beautifully presented, of the bonding between a daughter and father.
School Library Journal (starred review) 3/16/2017 Ibatoulline’s stunning illustrations depict the father/daughter pair hunting and learning together in a landscape of brilliant color and detail…An imaginative and unique title to introduce elementary schoolers to hawks and falconry in a medieval setting—an ideal read-aloud selection, too.
The Wall Street Journal 4/27/2017 Mr. Ibatoulline’s fine, realistic pictures of castle, landscape and soaring predator have a wonderful feeling of sweep and drama. In small panels, Ms. Smith supplements her poetry with falconry facts and historical context.
The New York Times Book Review 5/17/2017 Ibatoulline invites you into his sweeping, realistic scenes with cleverly shifting perspectives. But perhaps most thrilling is a book with a castle featuring a girl who’s curious and accomplished, with her social status and marital prospects blissfully beside the point.
School Library Connection 3/09/2017 The author presents the story in lyrical form and includes information boxes on each page, which goes into more detail about each subject…I would recommend this book for children in fifth grade, but it would be a nice read aloud for fourth graders. This book belongs in all libraries.


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