Wednesday, January 16, 2008

why I didn't write about the nest removal

As I hope you all know, I did a book on Pale Male called City Hawk. I’ve noticed that it gets compared with the other two picture books on the same subject often. What puzzles me is that it gets compared at all. My book is NOT about the nest removal and the other two are. My book is about outsiders—the hawks—surviving in a manmade environment. It’s not about humans and animals fighting for the same space. It’s about harmony--the BEFORE and AFTER the nest removal. Not during.

I wrote City Hawk—then called The Story of Pale Male-- far before the removal happened. There were a few roadblocks along the way that delayed my book’s publication and that is why it came out when the others did.

I did talk about the nest removal in the back but chose not to mention it in the body of the book or to make that event the focus of my story. Why? Because the nest removal wasn’t a happy event. I read one comment somewhere that said that the newest book on the nest removal is more accurate than the other two—mine being one of them. If anyone bothered to do the amount of research necessary to have a good knowledge of the event then they would know that my author’s note on the removal is VERY accurate.

I noticed that most authors seem to side with the birdwatchers… thinking -- how dare those building owners remove that nest! The truth is that things got ugly and the story is not as B&W as people may think. How would you like to live in an apartment where it is being watched night and day by people using giant telescopes made for NASA? How would you like close-ups of yourself (people such as Woody Allen)--being sold in the park as souvenirs? Would you like to have your apartment building assaulted by pigeons because a birdwatcher dumped enormous amounts of birdseed on the entrance, on purpose, to cause an upsetting event? One of the bird watchers even got arrested! I don't see that mentioned in any of the nest removal books. Hmm. Wonder why?

After reading tons of articles on the subject, I can see good arguments for both sides. Of course I side with Pale Male and his family (that's why I wrote the book!) but I don’t think the building owner or the apartment dwellers were evil at all and I don’t think any book should display them as such. That isn’t right. Apartment dwellers were harassed during the event—there was a lot of shouting and other protests. Honestly, that isn’t good subject matter for a kids’ book! So that’s why my book isn’t about the removal. I wish people would read more about it before concluding that my book should have included that part of the story. I like to be accurate. An accurate account of that event for kids would be an awful one. There are two sides to every story. We shouldn't forget that.

In the end, Pale Male and his family stayed. There was a happy ending. That’s what my book is about. The happy part.

I'm glad to get this off my chest!


p.s - This is NOT meant to criticize the other Pale Male books. I think they're both very good, fun books and I own them both! I would like each book to be looked at individually... not collectively. I also want to explain to the critics why I didn't write about the nest removal. I hope now people understand why.


Libby Koponen said...

I really like your reasoning and how well-thought out this is. I think that's one reason your books appeal to kids: you don't settle for the easy or sentimental answers. You look at all the facts first and then think it out.

sruble said...

Good comments Meghan! You're right that a lot of the nest removal story isn't right for a PB. An author's note seems like a good way to go - too bad the critics are comparing the books instead of giving them consideration individually.

We've been following the Pale Male story for a long time, since way before the nest removal. We saw him once flying through the park, but we've never gone to the bird watching site (I wouldn't have wanted to live in the building, with the binoculars and telescopes pointed at my apartment and not being able to look out at the park). I understood where the apartment dwellers were coming from - it didn't surprise me when they removed the nest. I thought they would have done it a lot earlier, but I also wanted Pale Male to be able to keep his home.

It's great that Pale Male and his family have decided to stay - hopefully the future will bring a peaceful existance btwn the people and the birds.

Meghan McCarthy said...

The building owners first offered to move the nest to the roof but the birdwatchers said "no." They ended up paying to make a device to hold the nest permanently... so in the end I think they realized how adamant people were about Pale Male and the nest. They knew they made a huge mistake.

The problem with getting nonfiction reviewed is that the reviewers don't know as much as the author does so they tend to compare previous books to the one they're reviewing. Sometimes the previous books are wrong or too slanted and that's whey things become problematic. I wish reviewers would do their own research before accusing a book of being inaccurate.