With Just One Wing by Brenda Woods

An adopted boy comes to identify with an orphaned mockingbird With Just One Wing.

With Just One Wing by Brenda Woods. Nancy Paulsen Books (PRH), 2024, 156 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10

Recommended for: ages 8-12

Cooper (Coop) Garnette loves his mom and pops, and they love him. But something nags at him: he had another mom who brought him to the ER when he was only a day old, then walked away. That made him a Ward of the State until the Garnettes adopted him. It’s a happily ever after, but he has to wonder if he’s a bit of a disappointment to his adoptive parents. If, for example, they’d prefer him to be as musically gifted as they are. Deeper down, he wonders if he was a disappointment to his birth mother also, or else, why give him up?

One day Coop’s grandfather, G-Pops, announces that the eggs in the mockingbird nest just outside their apartment window have begun to hatch. Unable to resist a closer look, Coop climbs the tree and loses his grip when attacked by irate avian parents. Down he goes, resulting in a badly broken arm and a mild concussion. Forced to rehabilitate at his grandparents’ apartment, he notices one of the baby birds is slow to fly. The reason is soon obvious; the little one has only one wing. Coop and his friend Zandi rescue the bird and try to provide a safe environment for it. But can they? And might the challenges of protecting a helpless creature shed some light why Coop’s birth mother abandoned him?

As Brenda Woods reveals in her Author Note, the subject is personal. Her own birth mother decided not to give her up, resulting in a difficult childhood and adolescence and a series of foster homes. What if it could have been otherwise? Coop’s story is her exploration of a life that turned out otherwise for a fortunate child who still has questions. Such as, why invest in loving a creature if you end up losing it? Was it all a waste of time? Coop’s grandfather has the answer to that one: “Love is never a waste of time.”

Bottom Line: A sweet, thoughtful story with a satisfying conclusion—plus information about birds!

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Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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