Owl Moon

11May10

By Jane Yolen
illustrated by John Schoenherr

Owl Moon tells the story of a girl and her father as they go “owling” for the very first time. “Owling” requires going out at night-time in search of an owl  and using owl calls and quiet stalking to find one.

Yolen uses repetition to add emphasis (“…like a sad, sad song” and “…for a long, long time”),  And to also add to the voice of the child narrator, as a children often repeat things in their story-telling (“Pa shrugged and I shrugged.”). The story is filled with descriptions of sounds (“And when their voices faded away it was as quiet as a dream.” and “Our feet crunched over the crisp snow..”), which add to the appreciation that owling requires a great deal of silence and a great deal of listening.

Upon the returned owl call, the girl comments, “I was not disappointed. My brothers all said sometimes there’s an owl and sometimes there isn’t.” I immediately connected to the Rylant’s story The Whales where she talks  about sometimes the magic is just knowing that the majestic animal is somewhere out there, and the faith that that inspires can be greater than an actual sighting. The pair do eventually sight the magestic Great Horned Owl, and when the owling is over, the two remain in silence because they don’t need the words. They have just experienced a special event together, and their hope saw them through.

The text of the story is intermittent with the illustrations, and the illustrations always are on both pages with the text finding its place among the white spaces. Schoenherr uses a watercolor technique in these illustrations that allows him to contrast brightness of the white snow with the darkness of the forest at night. Although they are looking for only one  animal in particular (a Great Horned Owl), Schoenherr’s illustrations to add dimension to the story by showing that the pair unknowingly passes a variety of woodland creatures that the reader hidden in the among the pages, including a fox, birds, a field mouse, a raccoon, a possum and a deer. Owl Moon won the Caldecott Medal in 1988.

Although this story is a well-known favorite for many children, I had never read it before. I really enjoyed it because my own father and I are particularly close, so I could really relate to relationship and bond between this father and daughter pair. Often in stories, these types of bonds are portrayed between mother-and-daughter and father-and-son, so it is refreshing to see this type of father-and-daughter bond portrayed.

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