Catherine Newman | The Children’s Book Review | January 21, 2013
By Jane Yolen; Illustrated by John Shoenherr
Age Range: 3 – 8 years
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Philomel (October 23, 1987)
Awards: Caldecott Award Book
Interestingly, my daughter has always thought that the little unnamed, bundled-up child in this book was a girl—and my son has always assumed it was a boy. It’s that kind of book: quiet and close, and it feels like what it’s about is you. A child and his or her father go out at night, in the deep winter woods near their farm, to see if they can spot any owls. And, towards the book’s end, they spot one. That’s it—but John Shoenherr’s wintery, realistic illustrations are so exquisitely moonlit and lovely, and the story is so profoundly quiet and reverent, that a deep feeling of peace has always descended over us each of the million times we’ve read it. It’s one of Jane Yolen’s serious stories, which means you can read the beautiful, almost poetic text in your regular voice, which I remember finding tremendously relieving when the kids were very young, and so much else was lilting and frantic. And the children are always moved by the silent heroism of the child, who must remain calm and still if she wants to see an owl—even though it’s cold and dark in the woods, and a bit creepy. “But I never called out. If you go owling you have to be quiet, that’s what Pa always says. I had been waiting to go owling with Pa for a long, long time.” We still quote our favorite all-purpose line about a kind of Zen journey-not-the-destination spirit of acceptance:
My brothers all said
sometimes there’s an owl
and sometimes there isn’t.
Add this book to your collection: Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
This review of Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, originally appeared in our article Five Family Favorites with Catherine Newman, published on April 8, 2012. Catherine Newman, mother of Ben, 12, and Birdy, 9, is the author of the award-winning memoir, Waiting for Birdy (Penguin) and a regular contributor to lots of magazines, including FamilyFun, O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Whole Living, and the nonprofit family cooking magazine ChopChop, which she edits. She lives in Western Massachusetts and practically camps out at her local library.