A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, the girls and I read up on owls for our science studies, and we read a couple of picture books about owls that were real winners. One of them is well-known, but the other one might not be. You can probably guess the first one: the Caldecott award winning Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. Jane Yolen is an accomplished poet , and that really comes through in Owl Moon. While it isn’t written in rhyming verse, Yolen perfectly captures what it must be like to go owling under a full moon in the whiteness of winter. This book is captivating. John Schoenherr’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment for this story–from the white expanses of snow on many of the pages to the expectant poise of the girl and her father as they see the owl land on a branch, he captured the feeling of this tale. If you haven’t read it, you must. Highly Recommended.
The Barn Owls by Tony Johnston is the simple story of genrations of owls that have made their home in a century-old barn that stands in wheat field. This book provides a glimpse of what an owl does all day long–sleep, or perhaps sail out out of a barn window to perch on a branch, or even just fly away “to where wheat and sky are one,” only to return. The owls’ nighttime activities are also described. Johnson does all this in a very descriptive and poetic way. I love this little bit:
Where owls hunted,
to hold the barn
Where owls hunted,
long snakes sunned
and split their skins
And bees hummed
See what I mean? I love all that wheat imagery, don’t you? There’s a whole lot of information packaged in this beautiful picture book–what a gift! Deborah Kogan Ray‘s illustrations are both warm and awe-inspiring. I love the two-page spreads of the owl in flight. Yet another Highly Recommended title.
I couldn’t let this opportunity pass without having some real fun! (Deep down, I’m a science lover. I’m not even sure how I ended up studying English and history in college. 🙂 ) Steady Eddie is a storehouse of scientific knowledge, so he suggested we dissect owl pellets for a little demonstration. We ordered our pellets from Owl Brand Discovery Kits and were pleased with both the product and the service. I had never dissected an owl pellet before, so I was just as excited as the girls were.
The pellet before we tore it open:
One of the pellets after I tore into it (the girls found it too difficult, so I had to help):
I love seeing all the little bones peeking out. Is that morbid?
Here’s some of what we found inside:
Our pellets came with a booklet which contained diagrams of all the possible animals the owl could’ve eaten. The idea was to match up the bones with the diagrams and determine which animal(s) your owl ingested. This was a little much for us to do, really–cleaning off the skeletons was a painstaking process. That’s okay, though–we were really more interested in the experience and wow factor at this point. I’m pretty sure that this will be on the things the girls remember from our school year!
We also did a little owlish art project. I found this idea online and thought it was cute and a great way to use up some art stuff that I always save (egg cartons, etc.) but rarely ever use. I keep meaning to have the girls go back and add a branch for their owls to perch on, but our owls got pre-empted by a flurry of holiday activity. I think I’m going to hang these beauties up over our nature shelf.
One of the neatest things about this owl study is that just about the time we did it, the girls and Steady Eddie actually saw an owl in the road on the way home from Nana’s one night. Wow! This has actually happened before, a few years ago on our street. We hadn’t seen one since then, though. I love it when our studies and real life intersect. I love that reading and observing nature have made us–all of us–more observant in our day-to-day lives.
What are you enjoying with your families these days? Link you your own Read Aloud Thursday post in the comments, or simply leave a comment telling us all about it!