Ragtag, by Karl Wolf-Morgenländer;
Clarion Books: New York, 2009; $16
There has been and still are wars between animals of different species. Have you ever heard of a war fought between city birds and birds of prey? Do you always think you’re too small or too weak to make a difference? Well, you and Ragtag could get along just fine.
Ragtag is a young swallow that is a member of the Feathered Alliance. He doesn’t want to attend the council meetings so he flies off on his own. On a dark and stormy night a storm blows him into an old abandoned factory. At first he hears a sharp noise like nails on a chalkboard, and then he sees strong, powerful wings. He sees sharp, crooked talons and beak, and the floor stained with crimson blood. Huddled into a corner is an injured eagle named Baldur. Once Ragtag cuts through the rope restraining Baldur, the two make an agreement that Baldur will help fight the Talon Empire. This strong bond between these two characters reminds me of the promises I make to my teachers. Before we take a math test my teacher would take up our notes and check to see if they had a parent’s signature. My teacher trusted me so much, I didn’t have to show them to her. The method the Talon Empire used to attack Boston reminds me of the way my coaches taught strategies on how to take the ball away from my opponent.
The fight between Hoogol and Bergelmir was one of the most exciting events in the story. A great horned owl and osprey are locked in a fight to the death. This is the climax because secrets spill out while they are fighting. This reminded me of when I hid a test and didn’t tell anyone until two days later. When Hoogol passed up his leadership because he was dying, he passed it to Ragtag. This reminded me of when my grandmother passed her special box to me before she died. Bobtail, Ragtag’s older brother, is jealous of him for inheriting the leadership. He was the one who attended all the meetings and helped form battle plans. This part reminded me of when my friends get jealous when people get new cell phones, but eventually, like Bobtail, they put it behind them. When Loki the crow flew off to join Ragtag and Tattler in the battle, it reminded me of when another person and I put aside our differences and decided to help each other. At the end of the story, when the city birds won victory over the birds of prey, it signaled that no more blood would have to be shed, no more lives would have to be lost, and they could unite all the birds of the city together and make the Feathered Alliance stronger. The birds broke out into a symphony greater than any ever heard. The way the author described it they sounded like a professional orchestra.
Ragtag shows that a war can’t be won by a soldier’s strength or brain power. The war can only be won by the size of the soldier’s heart. Ragtag keeps you reading after every single page. At the end of each chapter, I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. As a reader and a book reviewer I hope to read another Karl Wolf-Morgenlander book very soon.