Unlike the signature, comedic style of cartooning Ross uses in the Horrid Henry and Little Princess books, his textural pastel illustrations in this story about a baby barn owl are delicate and quiet, an excellent match for Willis’s lyrical text. Although Willis sneaks in some information about owls (“Every dawn, every dusk, Father Owl went hunting to feed Mother Owl”), the emphasis is on the youngest chick, who is afraid to leave the nest. “If I fly, the rain might get me. If I fly, a train might hit me,” she says. The older chicks find new homes, and after some prompting (Ross comically shows Father Owl tugging on his daughter’s tail as she clings to a branch), she finally tries to fly and succeeds. The story ends with a fairy-tale series of sentences that echoes the book’s opening lines and points to the cyclical nature of life: “In the middle of the beech tree, there is a hole./ In the middle of the hole, there is a nest.” A conventional but nonetheless lovely take on facing one’s fears. Ages 4–9. (Sept.)
- Heidi Hauser Green
Mother Owl and Father Owl care for their three eggs and, then, their chicks. They hunt and feed; the chicks grow. Soon, one is big enough to fly. Then, the second is. But the third refuses even to try. Despite her parents' urging, the last chick will not fly. It is afraid of crows, rain, trains, and other dangers. After all, chick 3 points out, chick 1 did not return. "Your sister is at home in the old elm tree," Mother Owl reassures. "You belong in the sky." A bit of anxiety about chick 2's fate is answered similarly. Finally, the third chick acquiesces—and succeeds! Snow came, then spring. At least, we see the third chick—grown, with her own first chick! In the spirit of Lauren Thompson's Little Quack (illustrated by Derek Anderson) and Amber Stewart's Little by Little (illustrated by Layn Marlow), this is a story of a young creature who overcomes fear. It is the type of tale welcomed by many fearful youngsters (and their worried parents), and one that will bolster the confidence of anyone challenged to rise to the occasion. Recommended for preschool and kindergarten.
The third of three owl chicks hesitates to fly, requiring much encouragement from its parents. As they did in Don't Let Go! (2003), veteran collaborators Willis and Ross here allude to both the terrors and rewards of a child's first steps toward independence. The repetitive, alliterative poem and realistic pictures work together to tell the story. Ross' illustrations vary in size and placement on the white pages. Done with pastels on a textured base, they show barn owls with endearing, heart-shaped faces. Father hunts and brings food; mother looks out from their woodland tree cavity. One especially sweet image has both parents looking on as lovingly as owls can look as the last chick hatches from its egg. Later, readers see the first two chicks flapping, flipping, flopping and flying. When the third chick worries she might be eaten by a crow or hit by a train, the color deepens: Against a deep red sky a looming steam engine threatens. The chick clings desperately to a tree branch; Father tries to pull her free. At last, she flies. But that's not the end. "Snow came. Crow came. Spring came. / But what became of this last chick?" This gentle read-aloud looks forward to the time when the child will have a young one of her own. (Picture book. 3-7)