BEAUTY AND THE BEAK: A 3-D Printer Saves a Life

Lynn: In 2007, the bald eagle was removed from the endangered and threatened species list, but it still faces many serious threats. Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp clearly outline the eagle’s precarious position in Beauty and the Beak: The True Story of How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle (Aug. 2017).

A policeman found a young, grievously injured bald eagle in an Alaskan landfill. The eagle was shot, starving, and weak, her upper beak destroyed by a bullet that left her unable to eat, drink, or preen her feathers. The policeman wrapped her in a coat and took her to a wildlife center, who named her Beauty. The center did what it could to help Beauty, but although her wounds had healed, she remained unable to eat or drink without help.

Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3-D Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp

Enter raptor biologist Jane Veltkamp, who took Beauty to Birds of Prey Northwest, a raptor center in Idaho. There, Jane teamed up with an engineer, Nate, and Nate’s dentist to create a prosthetic beak. Hundreds of hours of work later, the team had designed and 3-D printed a new beak, enabling Beauty to eat and drink on her own.

The authors tell this heartwarming, inspiring story using relatively simple sentences and vocabulary appropriate for early elementary students. But the outstanding photographs steal the show, especially the close-ups of Beauty and the procedure to apply her prosthesis. Kids will be fascinated! This is a great book for STEM units with a host of curriculum connections, from science and technology to writing prompts. The authors have provided a large amount of back matter to supplement science lessons, including extensive information about bald eagles, their history and status on the endangered species list, suggestions on how kids can help the species, and a long list of resources, including web links and QR codes for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Although the science and technology included in this book are supremely interesting, the compassion and dedication of the people who put it to use to save this wonderful bird are the best part of the story. I defy anyone not to be moved by the picture of Beauty using her restored beak to take a drink of water.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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