From the Eagle's Wing Critical Context - Essay

Hildegarde Hoyt Swift

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Swift, a well-known outdoor enthusiast herself, was motivated to write about others who cared about nature. Her book The Edge of April (1957), about another conservationist and contemporary of Muir, John Burroughs, is dedicated to the same ideals. Both the biography of Burroughs and From the Eagle’s Wing were included on the notable children’s books list of the American Library Association in the years that they were published. These books firmly established Swift’s credibility as a children’s writer concerned with ecological responsibility.

In 1962, the cry for environmental protections in the United States was somewhat limited to groups such as the Sierra Club (which Muir founded) and a minority of farsighted individuals troubled by the long-range effects of ecological destruction. In the decades that followed, environmental issues assumed an increasingly prominent place in political forums and even international concerns.

Swift emphasizes in her work that environmental issues are as much, if not more, a concern for children as for adults; each generation is faced with the legacy passed to them by the preceding one. As scientists learn more about the importance of the nonhuman world to humans, and as long as the disappearance of forests worldwide continues, a book about one of the earliest environmentalists in the United States can only find an expanded significance in young adult literature.