Yolen, Jane. Owl Moon. Illustrated by John Schoenherr. New York: Scholastic, 1987.
I am over the moon, so to speak, to tell you about Owl Moon. It seems it is the perfect week to do so. It was the full moon on Monday that made me remember this book. The moon was large, bright, and lustrous. This book takes place on a night with a full, bright moon. Here’s how the book opens.
It was late one winter night,
long past my bedtime,
when Pa and I went owling.
There was no wind.
The trees stood still
as giant statues.
And the moon was so bright
the sky seemed to shine.
What else make this a perfect time for this book? It snowed this evening in central Texas. If you have friends from central Texas on Facebook, this is probably no surprise to you. Everyone I know in the area has posted a snow picture. Those of you who live where it is cold and snowy will not be impressed. I hope you will forgive our giddy pleasure in this skiff of snow. You will notice this book takes place on a snow covered wintry night. With a snowy night and a full moon in the same week, I think I was destined to write about this charming book.
The little girl in this story lives on a farm in a very, snowy part of the country. She has been waiting oh, so very long to go owling with her Pa. It is late, way past her bedtime, when they head out. The snow on the fields they pass glistens in the light of the moon. It is quiet and she can hear sounds from far away as clear as if they were close by. Have you ever walked on a pristine field of snow with no one around? It is so quiet and bright. It crunches as you walk. If the snow is deep, you have to lift your feet high to walk. As they walk together their feet crunch in the snow. It is the only noise they hear. She knows that if she goes owling with her Pa, she has to be very quiet. She has to run to keep up with her dad sometimes, but she is still quiet. They make shadows on the snow, tall and thin, short and round. They walk to the forest at the edge of the fields. They stop and Pa gives the call of the Great Horned Owl. They listen and listen, but there is no answer. She isn’t disappointed as she knows from her brothers that “sometimes there is an owl and sometimes there isn’t.”
As the girl and her pa walk further into the forest, they listen. There is suppressed excitement and anticipation. I can almost imagine the little girl bouncing silently up and down as she listens and waits as Pa calls out again. Then they hear it, the faint echo of a returning call. As they listen the call comes nearer and Pa turns on his big flashlight and catches the owl as it lands on a branch. Momentarily, they stare at one another, owl to girl and man and back. Then the owl wings its way back into the forest. The owling is over and it is time to go home. She could be loud, she could laugh, but she holds the silence inside as she walks home. A wise young one, she is. Here is her final reflection.
When you go owling
you don’t need words
or anything but hope.
That’s what Pa says.
The kind of hope
that flies on silent wings
under a shining owl moon.
Jane Yolen is a wonderful storyteller. She evokes feelings of peace and quiet, just what you need for a night of owling. When I read it aloud, I almost want to whisper. I want to keep the serenity I see in the pictures and hear in the words. I hope you can find this book and add it to your collection. It would make a restful, reflective read on a wintry, full moon night.
Facts about this author.
- She wrote her first poem in preschool. Amazingly she still has it. She recites it to groups of students, “because it was so bad that I tell them that, clearly, they’re writing better poems than that.”¹
- She has written over 250 books. They seem to cover many genres and all ages. You can take a look at her website for a full listing: http://janeyolen.com/
- Owl Moon was the 1988 Caldecott Medal winner.
- She won the World Fantasy Award in 1987 for Favorite Folktales from Around the World. In 2009, she was earned their Lifetime Achievement award. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres.²
- She’s been an editor, a teacher, a storyteller, a critic, a songwriter for rock groups and folk singers.³
Here are some websites to visit to learn more about this author.