This is the story of two boys and an old man who capture and train a peregrine falcon. The story is set in Australia but by skilfully weaving history and the sport of falconry into his tale, the author has made his story interesting to readers outside of Australia also – especially so because the peregrine falcon is found in many places throughout the world.
The story begins with Joe, a young larrikin and an avid reader of adventure books. As a result of his being unable to find the latest Buffalo Bill novel on his last trip to town and his reluctance to complete the list of jobs left by his mother when she went out for the day, his attention was drawn to an old book lying on the floor. ‘Flower of Knighthood’ had been commissioned as a doorstop as well as other sundry uses in the past and for want of a better occupation Joe took the book outside, sat under a tree and began to read it.
Presently he found himself awash in English history and consequently when his friend David, who was born in England came along some time later, he quizzed him about the Black Prince, Edward the Third and the sport of falconry. In the course of their conversation Joe discovered that David’s Grandfather, Mr. Mannering, had been a gamekeeper in England and knew a great deal about falcons and hawks.
The boys eventually convinced Grandfather Mannering to teach them the art of falconry and they subsequently set out to capture a juvenile falcon and begin its training as a hunting hawk. The author goes into some detail about the method used for training falcons and also describes numerous other creatures such as cicadas:
“The locusts make the row by rubbing their hind legs across the drums,” remarked Joe knowingly.
“That’s just where you are wrong, and in any case they are not locusts,” said Grandfather. “They don’t rub their legs across the drums at all. It is all done by vibration. Underneath the drums on each side of the cicada’s body is a hole covered with skin and full of muscles. The insect, using these muscles, causes the skin to vibrate in and out and the drum acts as a sort of amplifier or loud-speaker. The faster the cicada vibrates his muscles, the louder and harsher is the row he kicks up.”
C.K. Thompson wrote numerous books about Australian wildlife (eg. the dingo) which sadly are out of print, but if you can get hold of any they are wonderful sources of information on Australian Natural history intertwined in stories that contain both action and interest. Many of his children’s books were written in the 1950’s so they reflect that generation’s outlook and use of language and the writing sometimes feels a little dated but his stories still have a strong appeal to children around the ages of about 8 years and up.