June 23, 2020

An Owl at Sea: Guest review

Today's review was written by teacher Elizabeth Cook.

Written by Susan Vande Griek
Illustrated by Ian Wallace
Groundwood Books
978-1-77306-111-5
32 pp.
Ages 6-10
May 2019

This beautiful picture book was written by Susan Vande Griek after she read a news article about a Short-eared Owl that somehow flew to an oil rig many kilometres out in the ocean off Scotland.  An Owl At Sea starts with an owl resting on a fence post in a field looking to see if it can find a mouse to eat.
From An Owl at Sea by Susan Vande Griek, illus. by Ian Wallace
It doesn’t explain why or how the owl got so far from this field when we see it navigating the sky above the ocean next.  However, the story of its journey to that oil rig, and then home, is captivating to read.

I am always drawn into books written in verse.  For me, it makes the story all the more magical.  An Owl At Sea by Susan Vande Griek is written in verse and I was instantly struck by the power of a simple description of the owl written in verse. 
Chunky legs,
tired wings
drop,
fold,
talons searching
for something to hold.
These words helped me feel the exhaustion of the owl, desperate for a place to rest after finding itself so far from its field back home. Susan Vande Griek weaves words so beautifully that the scene unfolds before your own eyes.

From An Owl at Sea by Susan Vande Griek, illus. by Ian Wallace
The words alone create wonderful images for the reader; however, that shouldn’t take away from the stunning artwork by Ian Wallace. His watercolour artwork brings the scene alive. I especially loved his images of the owl on its harrowing journey above the crashing waves and in the misty weather. It is almost as if you can feel the salty spray on your face as you cross your fingers tight, hoping for a safe landing for the owl.

From An Owl at Sea by Susan Vande Griek, illus. by Ian Wallace
An Owl At Sea is a great story to read about the determination of animals.  In the classroom, it would be an interesting book to read in combination with a non-fiction book on owls to compare how extraordinary a feat this journey was for the Short-eared Owl.  It could inspire more research on astounding animal accomplishments and their stories.  This book also illustrated the kindness of the humans that all helped this feathered creature return to its grassy field.  Perhaps, it will inspire children to find ways to help out animals in their own community.

~ Elizabeth Cook is a teacher in the Halton District School Board. She is an avid reader and fan of Canadian literature.

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