The Seagull Who Was Afraid To Fly

Book Reviews

Reviewed by:

Tracy Cook

Round Table Reviews
03 Aug 2004
(Note: the site, where the following review was published, is no longer available as of 2012)

Dusty is an ordinary young seagull. Well, almost ordinary - there is that one little peculiarity he has, his fear of heights. His parents, after agonizing over the matter, decide that in order to learn to survive, Dusty must go out on his own. His father shows him that the ledge the nest is built on slopes down to the beach, and the parents send him off and dismantle the nest with aching hearts.

Dusty heads off, walking down the ledge to the beach and heading off towards unknown adventure as he tries to learn to fly. Along his journey, he meets many colorful characters to guide him and offer advice, such as hecklers Flim and Flam, a couple of crusty crustaceans with a steady stream of wisecracks; Paco the sage, languid Sea Lion; Phred the Toad Scholar, who warns about the cat at the lighthouse; and Elvis the banjo-playing harp seal, who sings "You Ain't Nothin' But a Sea Lion," and whose very glance causes female aquatic life to swoon. And last but not least, Jill, another seagull who encourages Dusty and tries to help him learn how to fly.

In order to overcome his fear, Dusty and Jill set off to walk up the ledge to its peak, where the lighthouse is. On Paco's advice, Dusty will look over the edge each day until he's no longer afraid of heights. The only problem is that Dusty must overcome his fear before the lighthouse cat can overcome Dusty.

Full of puns and plays on words, THE SEAGULL WHO WAS AFRAID TO FLY is a book that will amuse parents as they read it aloud to their children. The gentle and entertaining story teaches about friendship, encouragement, and the power of believing in others.

Reviewed by:

Susan Elaine Collins

Author of “A Breath Away”, “Memories Of A Cowboy”, and “Whispers In The Wind”

The Seagull Who Was Afraid To Fly is an endearing children's tail. Dusty, the newly hatched seagull is afraid of heights and is therefore afraid of flying. What a predicament for a bird to be in? But Dusty, the seagull, has a loving family and many good friends. Though embarrassed at his plight, Dusty must learn to interact and trust his friends just as children must learn to do.

One exciting adventure after another is woven through the story. And we learn that with each experience, Dusty gains a little more faith in himself as well as in his friends.

The Seagull Who Was Afraid To Fly not only teaches its young readers, it is very enjoyable.

Reviewed by:

T.A. Von Reiman

Writer's Nook and Reader's Corner
22 Sep 2004

The Seagull Who Was Afraid To Fly, is a lively children's book filled with many imaginative characters. Steven Wickstrom has woven a gentle message of hope and determination within the pages of his upbeat story.

The tale begins with the birth of Dusty, who is preceded by two brothers and one very arrogant sister. At first it appears to be a normal family of seagulls until one day Dusty discovers he is afraid of heights. This is a dangerous flaw for a seagull as flying is their only way to survive. As things progress, Dusty is soon left on his own when it comes time for his family to leave the nest. Dusty begins his personal journey to find his own unique place in the unknown world.

There are many characters that Dusty encounters along the way; Flim and Flam; two hermit crabs, Paco; a Spanish speaking sea lion and Elvis; a singing harp seal, to name a few. But the most important is Jill, a female seagull of about the same age as Dusty. The story is filled with lively situations and unique characters that fill each page. Dusty is forced to face his own insecurities when he and Jill travel to a lighthouse that is occupied by a cat that is know to enjoy a thrilling kill. Children will certainly cheer for Dusty's successes and feel the pain of his failures as they enjoy this mesmerizing tale.

I liked the colorful descriptions and lively dialogue of this book, but I had some problems with the age group that this story was targeting. The author had informed me that it was written for middle grade to young adults but it didn't seem to fit that range. I found scenes that appeared to be written for children of a rather young age, for instance the singing seal named Elvis. But then I discovered other areas that contained words that far surpassed this age group, like abated, dismantle, and crustaceans to name a few. Even though this variation did slightly interrupt the flow of the story I don't think that it seriously flawed the over all affect.

Steven is a graceful writer who captures the attention and heart of his young readers. I am sure that we will see much more from this aspiring writer.

Reviewed by:

Heather Froeschl

October 2004

Dusty is a newly hatched seagull, the youngest in the brood, with two brothers and a sister. His sister is hurtful and mean to him while his brothers are supportive. The parent seagulls take a tough love approach when it is realized that Dusty is afraid of heights and therefore, afraid to fly.

Subsequently, Dusty is left to fend for himself and finds some friends along the way. Here the story shows that friendships are important and growth is a part of life. Dusty must find a way to overcome his fear and take flight.

The moral is a good message and the story is positive, while the plot is interesting to young readers and full of colorful characters. However, there are references to stereotypical views of certain nationalities that I found rather cliché and not very politically correct. From the "lazy" Mexican to the "uptight" French poodle, these characterizations left a bad taste in my mouth.

When humanizing animals to tell a story it is hard to know where to draw the line. If an author does take it so far, they should stay on either side of the line and not flip flop back and forth between fantasy and somewhat reality situations. Having a restaurant on the beach, run by a poodle and frequented by sea turtles and other creatures crossed that line for me. Sticking to the more natural situations such as the two hermit crabs living in a cave or the two seagulls meeting up with a sea lion on a buoy would have been better. Even in a fantasy book, I was surprised by the Elvis sighting - even if he was a harp seal.

Overall, the book does have a positive message and the writing was well executed. I just don't feel that the positive outweighs the negative.

Reviewed by:

Molly Martin

October 2004

Dusty's sister and brothers have already hatched when he begins his journey from the quivering egg laying in the snug little nest. Dusty and his family are seagulls. Seagulls fly. Dusty is afraid of flying. And therein lies the dilemma. Dusty wants to fit in with his family and the other seagulls. When Mama and Papa push the other little seagulls from the nest they each begin to soar and glide. Dusty can only stare in terror. At last Papa does the only thing possible. He and Mama must destroy the nest to force Dusty to try life on his own. Life on his own is filled with worry, excitement, and a little girl seagull named Jill.

Writer Wickstrom has crafted a moving work in The Seagull Who Was Afraid To Fly. Reminiscent of Jonathan Livingston Seagull little Dusty and his family are presented in believable manner. The little seagulls wonder what it must be like to walk on clouds, and they fuss 'she's/he's touching me as children the world over no doubt do. Wickstrom has filled his tale with fanciful characters sure to bring a smile to the lips of the reader. Phred the toad, Elvis a Harp Seal, crabs Flim and Flam all are fun to read.

The tale of the little seagull who faces adversity and beats it back is one sure to please older children and adults alike. Reader interest is piqued from the opening lines as we wait for the little bird to emerge from his egg. Attention is maintained in this fast paced tale filled with enough detail to cause the reader to feel the spray on his face and taste the salt of the sea while reading the words.

Writer Wickstrom draws the reader into the tale and holds interest fast with a variety of situations and characters all leading to Dusty's ultimate success. The parents trepidation for forcing their hesitant offspring out into the world is shared by their human counterpart. The trepidation felt by the little bird for having to go out into that big scary world is something most youngsters admit to at one time or another. The Seagull Who Was Afraid To Fly is a book for the home and school library as well as proving useful to counselors working with children. Older kids will read and enjoy the tale. Adults may find the work an added tool as they address some of the problems facing their own offspring.

Engaging Read ......... Highly Recommended ......... 5 stars

Reviewed by:

Audra Silva

(Note: the site, where the following review was published, is no longer available as of 2011)

Dusty is a seagull afraid of heights and, consequently, afraid to fly. He finds his lack of flying ability embarrassing, but as he travels on foot, he meets some interesting characters that accept him for who he is. His new friends help him to face his fears and learn the value of friendship. But when a cat threatens the gull he loves, can he save her? Or will his lack of flying ability hinder him?

Children will enjoy this delightful story and learn an important lesson about trusting and depending on friends and overcoming obstacles. Children are sure to love the quirky characters like Elvis, the singing harp seal and the two old hermit crabs, Flim and Flam.

Reviewed by:

Safiya Tremayne

(Note: the site, where the following review was published, is no longer available)

Dusty is a young seagull with a unique problem. Unique, for a seagull, that is. He is afraid of heights. While his problem worried his parents, they knew the best way to help Dusty was to send him out on his own with his brothers and sister and dismantle the nest. His brothers and sister were able to fly with no problem and they left the nest quite willingly. Following his parents' advice, Dusty started walking down the ledge where the nest was built towards the beach.

On his journey down the ledge, he finds a pile of rocks and even a large branch in his way. With a bit of determination, he manages to push them out of his way and soon finds himself on the beach. It is here at the beach, that Dusty's true adventures begin.

From meeting two hermit crab brothers, Flim and Flam, who believe the sky is falling and even have proof that it is to meeting Jill, the most beautiful seagull he's ever seen, Dusty experiences a side of life most seagulls never even think about. Guided by his friends, Dusty is slowly conquering his fear of heights, but will it ever be enough so he can fly? A chance encounter with a cat will decide his fate one way or another.

The Seagull Who Was Afraid to Fly is a great story for families to read together. Children will love the unique cast of characters, as will the parents. The appearance of Elvis the Seal singing "You Ain't Nothing but a Sea Lion" and Francois, the French poodle maitre'd, not to mention Flim and Flam will keep everyone laughing. Wickstrom gently teaches a lesson about opening yourself up to new experiences, accepting help from friends and conquering your fears. A wonderful story from beginning to end.

Reviewed by:

Lillian Brummet

co-author of the books “Trash Talk” and “Purple Snowflake Marketing,” author of “Towards Understanding”

The Seagull Who Was Afraid To Fly by Steven Wickstrom, a seventy-three page children's book released in June, 2004, is one story your children will truly love. In just seven chapters, this paperback teaches children to have courage in the face of fear, the importance of friendship and to accept individuals for who they are - rather than evaluating them on what they are expected to be.

Dusty, is one of four siblings born in the spring. When it is discovered that he is afraid of heights, his parents are distraught with concern of what may happen to him when it is time for everyone to leave the nest. Shamed and ridiculed by his siblings, Dusty grows up with very little self-confidence. With effort, the parents must harden their hearts, destroy the nest and abandon the grown children - as is the way with animals. Dusty is now on his own - and because he has no parents to protect him and he is unable to fly, he must think beyond basic instincts and discover new solutions to each problem he encounters.

Dusty earns the respect of several friends along the way to the beach where he meets the love of his life, Jill. It is through his love for her, that Dusty breaks the chains of fear and not only learns to fly, but to soar! Cute hermit crabs, a seal that can play a banjo, a boisterous goose and a fairly wise sea lion are a few of the friends that aid Dusty and Jill in their adventures.

Author Steven Wickstrom is a Chief Warrant Officer in the US Coast Guard and currently resides in Virginia. Creatures that he has seen in his work at sea inspired many of the ideas for the characters in this book. Interestingly, his research into the fear of heights (acrophobia) and the clinical advice for overcoming this chronic condition was interwoven into the book. As such, the book could be quite useful for self-help groups, caregivers and psychologists. “The Seagull Who Was Afraid To Fly” is Steve's first children's book; his gentle, compassionate story is appropriate for readers aged between 8 and 13.

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