From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
This appealing yarn tells of a band of bird pirates who sail their ship through the sky and one day bring aboard a mysterious egg despite a superstitious sailor's warning that it's an evil ovum. When a gosling hatches, Blue Jay, the captain feared by many but admired by his crew, insists the youngster, Gabriel, be kept on. Gabriel quickly grows in size, but bad luck arrives just as fast, and together this ragtag avian crew battles crows, still winds, and other hazards while they quest for their next plunder. Technically, pirates are bad guys, but Nash's distinct characters, from shorebirds to sparrows to a very helpful star-nosed mole, are sympathetic and well drawn (literally, as the book features frequent and wonderful full-page illustrations), and Gabriel proves his value and self-worth in bad times and good. Referencing Robert Louis Stevenson and hearkening back to classic animal adventures of yore, this has the tone and style to appeal to thoughtful young readers; a coming-of-age element to gratify older ones; and drama, battles, and triumphs to entice the rest.--Medlar, Andrew Copyright 2010 Booklist
School Library Journal
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Gr 4-7-Captain Blue Jay, notoriously feared pirate captain of the flying ship Grosbeak, loves to collect eggs, giving him a revered reputation as a cannibal. When his latest treasure hatches, revealing a fast-growing gosling, the feathered crew bickers as to what to do with him. Motherly Junco takes young Gabriel under her wing, teaching him the ways of pirate life, much to the chagrin of the other birds on board who fear his burgeoning size will be their downfall. The avian society faces oppressive taxes and the Thrush government forbids migration, which forces the pirate birds to flee skyward. Bigger issues soon ensue as they find themselves not only trying to escape the oppressive Thrushian government, but also thieving crows and murderous weasels and fishers. When the Grosbeak becomes shipwrecked and Gabriel (who cannot yet fly) falls from the ship, he and Junco escape attacks, finding refuge at the tavern of Poppa Fox. With his help and a nearly blind mole named Hillary, Gabriel and Junco set off to find their shipmates before the crows murder them all. This swashbuckling adventure is Nash's first novel, and the numerous full-color illustrations are spot-on, adding charm and whimsy to the motley crew of characters. With a sophisticated vocabulary, a certain amount of violence, and colorful pirate language, the book requires fairly competent readers. A pirate adventure with birds as heroes and villains might have limited appeal to older readers, but animal fantasy fans not quite ready for Brian Jacques's "Redwall" series (Philomel) may want to walk the plank and jump in.-Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.