The red kite in ‘Granny Sarah and the last red kite’ evokes far more than mere ornithological interest. Vested within it is the sense of special accord Lowri feels for the stories from her Granny Sarah’s past, for her Granny Sarah’s house and its surroundings and ultimately of course for her Granny Sarah too!
The story charts the history of the red kite in Britain beginning with the legendary veneration of the birds by the King of England who praised their ability to keep clean the streets of London but moving through to the disparagement they suffered at the hands of farmers and game-keepers who believed them responsible for the death of too much poultry and their eventual extermination in both England and Scotland.
Moving into Granny Sarah’s own past, the story tells of the last mating pair of red kites in Wales who nested in an old oak tree at the bottom of her childhood farm. The pair are threatened as a child endeavours to earn a little money from an egg-collector by raiding the nest. Quick thinking and determination on the part of Granny Sarah are able to save the brood, however and the young are reared successfully, securing the fate of the red kite in Wales.
A fact sheet about the red kite is included within the book providing facts about the birds, where they might be sighted and directing readers to sites for further information.
Childhood nostalgia and Malacy Doyle’s awareness of the importance of stories combine to make this a particularly heart-warming book. The story is empowering in that it stimulates recognition that as part of a community we can all play a role in conserving the diversity of our countryside and the heritage of our land. The red kite itself is a perfect and inspiringly powerful motif to capture this and Petra Brown’s soaring illustrations fully realise this.