Fly Away Free
by Anne Turner Coppola

"You forgot good teaching involves motivation. You've got to make those geese want to fly, or they'll be perfectly content to stay on the ground."

After rescuing a baby osprey in her Miami Beach neighborhood, Tessie Farrell's afternoon nap transports her back to her adoptive childhood in upstate New York. Upset by her circumstances, sensitive and quick-tempered Tessie finds solace and friendship with a horse and the local librarian/ornithologist, Maudie Carroll. A science project soon has Tessie researching a pair of nesting geese. Before long she finds herself in the role of parent to a pair of goslings christened Orville and Wilbur. As Tessie experiments with imprinting, these young fledglings quickly identify with her as their adoptive mother.

Both heartache and humor transpire in the raising of these feathered offspring. Coppola creates a hilarious scene when Tessie's winged adoptees escape from their enclosure. The so-called "party crashers" make a memorable entrance at Mrs. Farrell's historical society luncheon. The author presents such an absorbing coming-of-age character and storyline that readers may be surprised by the final chapter's return to the elder Tessie's awakening. In the present day she reflects on changing adoption laws, and she thinks about the loss she feels in never knowing her birth parents. Like many a reminiscing adult, Tessie ponders a return to her childhood days in St. Lawrence.

There is much insight to be gleaned from the pages of this book. Chapters are woven throughout with lessons in honesty and empathy, responsibility and integrity, friendship and love. With similarities to the 1996 family drama, Fly Away Home, here the fictional Fly Away Free is an equally appealing, heartwarming tale filled with engaging characters and important issues. A popular adage ascertains that the best things you can give a child are roots and wings. In this charming revelation both Tessie and her charges come away with these precious commodities. Ideally, targeted middle-grade readers will realize the significance as well.

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