White Owl, Barn Owl by Nicola Davies

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White Owl, Barn Owl by Nicola Davies

Category: For Sharing
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Grandpa and the grandchild build and place a nestbox for a barn owl. With magical illustrations by Michael Foreman this is a book for the four to eight year old to buy and treasure.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: May 2007
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-0744570144

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One frosty winter day, I helped my grandpa make a big wooden box.

I was in love with this book before I reached the bottom of the first page. It happened as Grandpa and the child carried the box across the tussocky field. It's that word tussocky you see. This story is set in the real countryside, white with frost and lots of things to trip over. Grandpa and his grandchild have been making a nestbox for a barn owl.

This hasn't just been done on a whim. Grandpa has seen an owl sitting in the branches of the tree where he plans to put the nest box and he shows the child some sausage-shaped blobs under the tree. They're not poos as the child thought, but pellets of fur and bones which the owls spit out. Grandpa even takes one apart to see the bones and skull inside.

Once the box is in place the pair sit patiently and watch for an owl to come and they have to do this for many nights before they get their reward. But finally they see the white barn owl perched in the box. Grandpa makes a squeaking noise and the owl swoops down hoping for food. It's a magical moment for the child as the owl lands nearby, but is so light the twig hardly bends.

Did you know that an owl's bones are hollow to keep the weight down? I didn't. I didn't know that the heart-shaped ruff around its face helps to direct sound to the ears which are just holes in the head under the feathers either. Nicola Davies tells all about the barn owl but in such a way that you feel you've been told a story rather than been taught a lesson. It's simply told but without being in any way patronising to the child.

Add to this the wonderful pictures by Michael Foreman and it's easy to understand why the book is quite so magical. He captures the wintery countryside to perfection, with the leafless trees standing tall against the darkening skies. The child thinks that the owl looks like an angel as it raises its wings to take off and there is an ethereal quality to the bird. One picture - of the owl landing in the nestbox - illustrates the tremendous wingspan.

The story of the placing of the nestbox is told in normal font but there are additional notes - handwritten jottings - on the pictures, to flesh out the story and it's these which provided me with all the facts which I didn't know before. There's even an index which encourages the reader to look back at the book - an early encouragement to use reference books - and information on the building of nestboxes.

I'd like to thank the publishers, Walker Books, for sending this book to The Bookbag.

If you know a child who would like this book the might also like Mia's Story, which is written and illustrated by Michael Foreman.

Buy White Owl, Barn Owl by Nicola Davies at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy White Owl, Barn Owl by Nicola Davies at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy White Owl, Barn Owl by Nicola Davies at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy White Owl, Barn Owl by Nicola Davies at Amazon.com.


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