Falcon Wild

Falcon Wild

  • 1699

By: Terry Lynn Johnson

I back up as Cooper did and then sprint toward the edge. Just as I'm about to launch myself across the crevice, a hot wave of nausea grips me. I stumble at the last second. My leap is not enough to propel me to the other side. I reach for the edge.

And miss.

Thirteen-year-old Karma is lost in the backcountry of Montana with her falcon, Stark, and a troubled runaway boy named Cooper. She’s desperate to find help for her dad and brother after a blown tire on a back road causes a terrible accident.

Karma wouldn’t be in this predicament if her parents hadn’t insisted on returning Stark to the bird’s original owner. Life at her father's bird sanctuary—and Karma’s dreams of becoming an apprentice falconer—will never be the same when she has to give Stark back. Lost in the wild, their bond only grows stronger as Karma teaches the falcon to hunt like a bird of prey. All the while, Cooper gets his own lessons on how to trust in newfound friendship.

Both Karma’s and Cooper's mettle is tested by mountain terrain, wild animals, severe weather, injury, and her own waning hope as this edge-of-your-seat wilderness adventure story vividly portrays the special bonds that can form between humans and animals.

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Terry Lynn Johnson, author

Terry Lynn Johnson is the author of Ice Dogs (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), a 2014 ABA Best Children's Book, a Junior Library Guild Selection, an ILA/CBC Children's Choice, and the recipient of several other awards and honors. Terry is also an award-winning member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada and one of only nine female Conservation Officers in Ontario. When she's not writing, Terry enjoys hiking, snowshoeing, and kayaking. Her lifelong passion for adventure and wildlife continues to inspire her books.

Read more about Terry Lynn Johnson.

Awards & Honors:

Coming Soon!

Editorial Reviews:

School Library Journal

Karma, a 13-year old falconer-to-be, has to give her beloved bird, Stark, back to Stark’s original owner. As she and her father and brother head out into the back-country of Montana to return Stark, things suddenly start to go wrong when their van crashes. Karma finds herself in the middle of nowhere searching for help for her family. This book is an adventurous coming-of-age tale with a rich and beautiful natural setting. The imagery of the woods and country will make readers feel as if they are journeying alongside the protagonist. The details about the birds and what it takes to survive in the mountains are enlightening. VERDICT A strong choice for middle grade readers who appreciate nature, animals, and survival stories; an accessible read that could also spark discussions within a classroom setting.


Homeschooled 13-year-old Karma loves her rescued falcon, Stark, and is obsessed with learning to be an apprentice falconer; but her father, owner of a bird sanctuary, finds Stark’s original owner and insists on returning her. He allows Karma and her younger brother to accompany him and the bird to Canada, but soon after dropping off a young hitchhiker, Cooper, the trip goes terribly wrong. Their van overturns, trapping Karma’s father, and she must trek across unfamiliar, rugged terrain in search of help. A day later, she is joined by Stark and Cooper, who both sense Karma needs assistance, and together they endeavor to survive the wilds of Montana. Riveting action and harrowing experiences keep readers on the edge as the kids and falcon race to get back to Karma’s father and brother before it’s too late. Cooper’s character develops as his backstory is revealed, and fans of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet series will see parallels between Brian and Karma, particularly their strength in the face of adverse circumstances. An exhilarating survivalist adventure.

10,000 Birds

When I was a kid I loved books like My Side of the Mountain, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Julie of the Wolves. Looking back, they can seem quite dated – questionable environmental ethics and anthropology and all that – but the sense of adventure that they conveyed, and the sense that I too, if necessary, could someday rise to the occasion and share a bond with nature, were catnip to a middle-grades reader.

Falcon Wild is a new book in that long tradition, and this one features a more realistic (though still very slightly romanticized) portrait of a human/animal partnership. Stark, a white Gyrfalcon, is a falconry bird born and raised. Still, she’s nearly more falconry bird than 13-year-old Karma (yes, she has hippy parents) can handle at the book’s opening. But when the two get lost in the Montana wilderness, along with a 15-year-old boy named Cooper whose rough home situation has already gotten him branded a delinquent, they have to rise to the occasion or die. The survival aspects are well-presented if fully-packed for few days’ journey – there is one major, dramatic wild animal attack scenario but for the most part Karma and Cooper are at risk from falls on bad terrain, sudden inclement weather, hunger and thirst and just plain not knowing where they are.

New Moon Girls

In Terry Lynn Johnson’s Falcon Wild, 13-year-old Karma is lost in the Montana wilderness with her falcon, Stark, and a runaway boy, looking for help for her dad and brother who have been in an accident. The accident happened while the family was on their way to return Stark, a rescued bird, to his original owner in Canada, even though Karma doesn’t want to part with him. Lost in the wilderness, her bond with the bird only grows stronger as they face wild animals, injury, and severe weather together.

School Library Connection

This is an in-depth survival story with deep characters and a believable but not overly mature plot—a perfect fit for your middle grade readers who love adventurous drama. The plot centers on Karma, a not-so-typical 13-year-old girl who is lost in the wilderness of Montana with Cooper, a runaway boy she just met, and her trained falcon, Stark. After a car accident leaves Karma, her brother, and her father stranded on a backcountry road, Karma goes to find help but winds up lost in the wilderness, fighting for survival. Karma is a homeschooled falcon trainer, yet she still has the normal anxieties and issues of any teenage girl. Overall, the characters, dialogue, and plot of this book are excellent and truly suspenseful. However because of the focus on falconry, I fear it may not be a runaway hit with readers who are looking for something more relatable to their lives. Overall I would recommend adding this book to your collection, though it may take some selling to get students to read it.

The Loud Library Lady

What a fabulous adventure story! I love everything about this book – female protagonist, unique premise, cliffhanger chapter endings, manageable length for middle grade readers, and most of all, the absolute perfection it will be for a whole class read aloud in any middle school classroom. As a school librarian, I can't keep Gary Paulsen books on my shelves, and I just know this is going to be a huge hit with those readers. I will be purchasing copies for both of my libraries.


ISBN: 978-1-58089-788-4

ISBN: 978-1-63289-601-8 EPUB
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 10 and up
Page count: 176
5 1/2 x 8 1/4

Correlated to Common Core State Standards:
English Language Arts-Literacy. Reading Literature. Grade 5.

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