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Children's LiteratureAGERANGE: Ages 7 to 9.
In a shallow nest on the frozen Arctic tundra, four eggs of a snowy owl hatch. Turn a page and you will see that danger is here already in the shape of the hungry Arctic fox. The simple text works with economy to reveals the links between predator and prey, the feeding and nesting habits of the snowy owl, and the eventual flight of one of the hatchlings. Dubbed Ookpik, the Inuktitut word for the snowy owl, the young male learns to hunt on his own in the early fall of the Far North, and in due course begins his long flight south. Hiscock manages to show us the world through the owl's perspective with clarity and depth, engaging the reader with the conflict and tension inherently present in each step of the journey. Despite the naming of the owl, there is no anthropomorphism here. The small plants "like standing children" and the owl sitting perfectly still, waiting for the first lemming to appear--these are scenes rendered with strength and vividness. The authorial voice is confident and informative, and Ookpik should be an important addition to materials about migration and seasonal change in North America. The text is complemented by wide watercolor views of terrain, from snowy tundra to cityscapes, and over the Adirondack Mountains to the dairy country of New York State. A single page of back matter provides a detailed author's note including information about the snowy owl's range, the size of the bird, its natural prey, courtship and nesting patterns, as well as additional information about its life cycle, mortality and the implications of global climate change. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami