By Guest Blogger Dudley Carlson
Owls meet poetry.
Haiku takes them through a year,
And with great impact.
My attempt is less accurate than Gianferrari’s twenty-four haiku, which follow a pair of Great Horned Owls through nesting season as they find and refurbish a squirrel’s nest, lay their eggs, face a string of dangers, and eventually see their two fledglings disperse to make their own way in the world. Voss’s paintings capture the drama of darkness and danger as well as the soft safety of mother’s wings. For the very young, the story is all in the pictures and the telling. Older children will linger over the dramatic paintings but may also pick up on the Japanese poetic form. Teachers often introduce haiku – poems in three lines of seven, five, and seven syllables, traditionally linked into long, related strings that tell a story – as a way of making poetry more accessible or as a point of access to learning more about Japan.
In this case, the introduction is to the details of early life for Great Horned Owls. And it’s not an easy life. Three eggs are laid in the refurbished squirrel’s nest; one is dislodged in a crow attack and eaten by a raccoon on the ground. Two owlets hatch safely, but one has a very narrow escape after a trial flight and nearly becomes casualty number two. An adult may be needed, both for comfort (which author and illustrator skillfully restore) and to explain that one reason why birds lay several eggs is that not all of their babies survive the dangers inherent in a wild life.
After the story’s comfortable conclusion, two pages of additional information, including books, websites, videos and a webcam site are provided for those curious or old enough to want more. For preschoolers, pair this story with Martin Waddell’s Owl Babies and Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon. Or get out that old Superman cape and help your child turn it into a Great Horned Owl costume for Halloween!
SFBBO member Dudley Carlson, a biologist’s daughter, grew up in a family of birders and was Manager of Youth Services at Princeton (NJ) Public Library for 25 years. She believes that if children enjoy learning about birds and understand how important they are to our environment, then birds, nature and people will have a better chance at a healthy future. You can see all of Dudley's book recommendations here.
Wingbeat is a blog where you can find the most recent stories about our science and outreach work. We'll also share guest posts from volunteers, donors, partners, and others in the avian science and conservation world. To be a guest writer, please fill out our Volunteer Application below.