CALDECOTT MEDAL WINNER – 1988
by Jane Yolen
illustrated by John Schoenherr
New York: Scholastic, 1987
Age: 4 +
Interests: birds, owls, nature, winter
A girl and her father walk silently into the woods on a winter night. They are going owling, and the girl knows she must not talk, but follow her father and be brave in the dark woods. The father calls and they finally see their owl, a great horned owl.
A poetic, descriptive story about a night outing. The little girl has been waiting to go owling for a long time, her older brothers have gone before, and she knows she can’t talk or complain or get scared. The silence leads her to observe everything about her, and the description of the scene is at once simple enough to understand (“the snow … was whiter than the milk in a cereal bowl“) and evocative.
The shadows were the blackest things I had ever seen.
They stained the white snow.
My mouth felt furry, for the scarf over it was wet and warm.
I didn’t ask what kinds of things hide behind black trees
in the middle of the night.
When you go owling you have to be brave.
A calming story for bedtime, appealing to all the senses. Would be good for those interested in nature walks and might encourage them to observe their surroundings more closely. (Might even inspire them to be silent as they walk!) Also an excellent introduction to birding, and outings in which the mere glimpse of a bird is reward enough for the effort.