Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Hildegarde Hoyt Swift’s From the Eagle’s Wing: A Biography of John Muir is a chronological narrative account, in thirteen chapters, of the life of this famous conservationist. His life is traced from his formative years in Scotland to his death in California seventy-five years later. The book contains thirteen full-page illustrations and detailed acknowledgments to many publishers, libraries, and those in the private sector who provided information to Swift.

Although the book reads very much like children’s fiction, with a considerable amount of dialogue and lively, animated narration, Swift contends firmly that the text is “dramatized, not fictionalized.” As outlined in the back of the book, she has made careful use of extensive sources in her research and writing; historical documents and many diaries of the principals and their descendants attest the accuracy of events and even conversations. The foreword, written by Eleanor Roosevelt, praising Swift’s efforts and admonishing young people to care for the wilderness, further enhances the book’s credibility.

A complete personal profile of Muir emerges in the first four chapters, which chronicle his early years in Scotland and Wisconsin. Swift details many specific incidents from Muir’s youth, and much is made of his many “scootchers,” Muir’s word for tests of courage. Swift’s portrayal of Muir’s exceptionally adventurous spirit and her descriptions of...

(The entire section is 464 words.)