Challenger, an American bald eagle, is this country’s most popular winged mascot. He was blown out of his nest as an eaglet and taken in by humans. After several failed attempts to release Challenger back into the wild, he was taken to the American Eagle Foundation. It was there that trainer Al Cecere recognized the rare opportunity to work with an uninjured eagle that had imprinted on humans. He knew Challenger, as a free flying bald eagle, a sight few Americans actually witness, could become an ambassador bringing attention to the plight of these beautiful birds. Readers will recognize Challenger from the appearances he has made — ranging from such varied venues as the White House and the 100th Anniversary of National Wildlife Refuge System, the Pentagon and the Olympic Torch Ceremony. In addition Challenger has flown at the World Series and the 100th Anniversary of Flight at Kitty Hawk. Challenger has also appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, Good Morning America, Larry King Live, the Disney Channel, and Animal Planet. Margot Raven’s first children’s book, Angels in the Dust, won five national awards, including an IRATeacher’s Choice Award. Her first book with Sleeping Bear Press, Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot, was the runner-up for the 2004 Texas Bluebonnet Award. Challenger is illustrator Gijsbert van Frankenhuzen’s eighteenth children’s book with Sleeping Bear Press. His most recent title The Legend of the Petoskey Stone was a number one Midwest bestselling children’s picture book. Gijsbert and his family live in Bath, Michigan, outside of Lansing, on a 40-acre farm where they rehabilitate injured wildlife.
Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen was born in the Netherlands in 1951. With his seven brothers and sisters, he grew up exploring nature and his sketch pads were filled with observations from those family outings. Always drawing as a young boy, his father encouraged Gijsbert to make art his career. After high school, he attended and graduated from the Royal Academy of Arts in Arnhem, Holland.
Gijsbert, or “Mr. Nick” as many children affectionately call him during his school visits, immigrated to the United States in 1976 and worked as Art Director for the Michigan Natural Resources Magazine for 17 years. In 1995, he illustrated his first children’s book, The Legend of Sleeping Bear, finally fullfilling his dream of illustrating children’s books.
Visiting and “interviewing” Challenger and Al Cerere, founder of the American Eagle Foundation, in Pigeon Forge, TN. Notice that big, yellow star on Challenger’s cage door! Also notice the eagle glove (far right,middle). It’s used to hide the hand-of-man when feeding birds that will be released into the wild.
American Eagle Association
Challenger, an American bald eagle, is this country’s most popular winged mascot. He was blown out of his nest as an eaglet and taken in by humans. After several failed attempts to release Challenger back into the wild, he was taken to the American Eagle Foundation. It was there that trainer Al Cecere recognized the rare opportunity to work with an uninjured eagle that had imprinted on humans.
He knew that Challenger, as a free-flying bald eagle, a signt few Americans actually witness, could become an ambassador, bringing attention to the plight of these beautiful birds.
Readers will recognize Challenger from the appearances he has made, ranging from such varied venues as the White House and the 100th Anniversary of national Wildlife Refuge System, the Pentagon, and the Olympic Torch Ceremony. In addition, Challenger has flown at the World Series and at the 100th Anniversary of Flight at Kitty Hawk. Challenger has also appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, Good Morning america, Larry King Live, the Disney Channel, and Animal Planet.
Reader: This is a wonderful read. A true story that is happening in our time. Great for children (and adults) to learn about Eagles.
Reader: This book is a wonderful book to start children to be aware of their world. In fact, most parents sitting down and reading this book to their children might also become aware of what they are doing to their own little piece of the Earth.
Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt – Children’s Literature
Challenger is the true story of an American bald eaglet whose nest is blown from a tall old pine in a Louisiana woods after a great storm. As his parents watch nervously, the eaglet is scooped from the fallen nest by a fisherman. The eaglet is soon dependent on the bits of fish the fisherman and his family drop into his hungry mouth. The fisherman eventually gives the eagle to a zoo, hoping he can be returned to the wild. Twice the eagle is set free–and twice he proves that he can’t find food without human help. That is when fate steps in, transforming the displaced eagle into a majestic ambassador who helps to halt the extinction of America’s bald eagles.
Challenger reminds young readers how closely nature is tied to the actions of humans. And the author shares the message that a single person–and bird–can accomplish great things if they passionately strum the heartstrings of people who love beauty and nature.
Wrapped in the arms of love, hope, and generosity, this tale soars, as do the illustrations. 2005, Sleeping Bear Press, Ages 4 to 8.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-A fallen nest puts an eaglet into human hands, leaving him permanently imprinted and unable to fend for himself in the wild. A home at the American Eagle Foundation and instruction in falconry skills by its staff result in Challenger becoming a trained, free-flying eagle.
Van Frankenhuyzen’s often dramatic paintings follow the bird and his champion, Al Cecere, to a culminating free-flight before 80,000 people at the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Para-Olympics in Atlanta.
More than a simple story, this is a fervent plea for the continued protection of the American bald eagle. Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY
The Times Argus, (Montpelier-Barre, VT)
January 2, 2006
Books to Borrow…Books to Buy
Author: Kendal A. Rautzhan
Books To Buy
Read yourself: age 7 – 8 and older.
“Challenger: America’s Favorite Eagle” by Margot Theis Raven, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, Sleeping Bear Press, 2005, 46 pages, hardcover
When the young bald eagle’s nest was blown from a tree during a storm, he is rescued and cared for by various humans. Eventually the chick forgot that he was an eagle and thought he was human, too. Attempts to release him back to the wild failed, for the eagle didn’t know how to catch his own food.
The orphaned bird was finally placed with a man who loved eagles – Al Cecere. Al named the bird Challenger, and quickly understood that the eagle was so comfortable among humans that he and Challenger could work together to educate people about the plight of the endangered American bald eagle and other birds of prey, which is precisely what they did.
An extraordinary true story, this selection excels.
Nationally syndicated, Kendal Rautzhan writes and lectures on children’s literature.
School Library Journal
More than a simple story, this is a fervent plea for the continued protection of the American bald eagle.