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Saturday, April 25, 2015

HOOT OWL: Master of Disguise. Written by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Jean Jullien. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $18.00 ages 3 and up

"And here I come!

The night has
a thousand eyes,
and two of them
are mine.
I swoop through
the bleak blackness
like a wolf in the air.
And look there ... "

Hoot Owl knows that he is expert at predatory exploits. He has no concern whatsoever for tracking, tricking and taking the food that he needs to sustain himself. He does so with a healthy dose of confidence and villainy. Rather than chase, he disguises himself.

His prey (a rabbit, a lamb, a pigeon) are remarkably unconcerned with his sly hunting tactics. Each time he tries to prevent discovery, the prey catches on and makes an hasty exit. Hoot Owl is always willing to wait. When all seems lost, he spots the perfect victim. Once again he disguises himself; this time, he is a waiter which seems appropriate since that is all he has been doing in his attempts at securing sustenance. His final opportunity comes with a totally unexpected prey that cannot flee. His hunger finally sated, the Owl is tired of trickery and ready to be himself again. All is well.

The repetitive text, and its exceptional accompanying artwork are sure to have little ones begging to hear it 'one more time, please!' You won't mind one bit. Just listen to Hoot Owl's refrain:

"Everyone knows
owls are wise.
But as well as
being wise,
I am a master
of disguise.

I devise a costume."

The fact that he disguises himself as a carrot, a mother sheep, and a birdbath add to the silliness, and will encourage little ones to try reading parts on their own. Hoot Owl has no mean bone in his body: each time he devises a costume, he merely sits patiently and waits while doing nothing about capturing a meal. It endears him to the audience, for sure.

Be sure to read this aloud with your family and with your students. It begs an emotive tone, and a strong, persuasive voice. You will have a ball!

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