Sunday, December 30, 2012

Owl babies by Martin Waddell illustrated by Patrick Benson

As January approaches my thoughts are turning to the early weeks when Kindergarten students visit our school library for the first time.  There is so much excitement attached to borrowing the first library book and taking it home for mum or dad to read.  I have a small set of books that I like to read over these weeks - I call them participatory stories because each one allows the children to join in as storytellers. I also like to read books that are perhaps familiar either from pre-school or from home collections.  One of these books which is always popular is Owl Babies.  This is one of those books can boast the most special accolade of all because children always say "Read it again".

Every child and adult has experienced the feeling of loss conveyed in this beautiful book.  The mother owl has gone hunting leaving the three little owls at home alone.  The baby owls have feelings of anxiety and concern but each little owl has a different coping mechanism.  Sarah is the practical one, she takes charge and explains why the mother owl has gone.  She knows the younger owls need comfort so she gathers them all together on one branch.  Percy is a future thinker.  He knows the mother owl has to go away so they can all have delicious food. He is looking forward to a reward for his patience. Yes he is worried but he is also philosophical.  Bill is the smallest of the baby owls and his experience of this separation is almost too hard to witness.  He just knows his mother is gone and he wants her back.  His anxiety builds and builds through the story until finally "Soft and silent, she swooped through the trees to Sarah and Percy and Bill....WHAT'S ALL THIS FUSS?  ... You knew I'd come back."  The baby owls are thinkers and yes they knew she would come back.  Bill is especially pleased all the tension and anxiety are gone and he can happily say "I love my mummy!"

The joy of reading this book comes from the individual characters of the baby owls.  I love to use different voices for each one.  The illustrations are so luminous you can almost touch the owl feathers.  Martin Waddell is a master story teller.  I was once lucky to hear him read Owl babies.  He read with such affection and with a perfect languid pace.  We have a DVD of this book in our library too but we only look at it after a careful reading of this classic heart warming story. Here are some teaching notes.  As a final touch I have three tiny baby owl puppets which come out of my library bag when we read this book.

Here is a comment that sums up the power of Owl Babies :

'Books have long been used to give children a way of looking at and understanding issues that are familiar to them by putting them in a different context'

No comments: