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The Barn Owls Paperback – July 1, 2001


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The hushed tones of this poetry book describe the lives of generations of owls, who have lived in a redwood barn for "one hundred years/ at least." Johnston (An Old Shell: Poems of the Galapagos) evokes the rhythms of an owl's life through repetition of words and lines, equating the duration of the barn's existence with the infinite expanse of wheat, echoed in a spread of golden sky and grasses ("where wheat and sky/ are one"). The circular text revolves around nature's cycles, as when "one by one owls/ wake up/ and blink/ and hunt for mice/ while moons swell/ and shrink." In watercolor and pencil art, Ray (Jackrabbit) contrasts the glowing, golden tones of the wheat-filled barn with the cool blues of night. Ray does not shy away from the owl's predatory instincts; two illustrations show the fowl firmly grasping a mouse. Among the warmest of paintings are those depicting newly hatched owls with the same enigmatic, masklike faces as those of the parents who gaze down at them: "Old owls watching,/ new owls born/ in the redwood barn/ in the whisper of wheat." Conspiring with the spare text's quiet rhythms, these tender images make this book a natural for easing children to sleep, just as real owls begin their nocturnal wanderings. Ages 4-9. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

PreSchool-Grade 4-Johnston has created a tribute to the common barn owl. Her creatures doze "in the scent of wheat" and leave "the barn through a bale of light." Golden wheat tones suffuse Ray's watercolor-pencil and paint art. Author and illustrator run lyrical, but they don't lose sight of the bird's daily bread-the mouse. The center spread wordlessly depicts an owl aloft, a mouse dangling lifelessly from its beak, wings cutting through a dark night lit only with the merest sliver of moon. Elsewhere, as grown owls bring the newest offering to their loft-bound babies, sharp eyes will pick out the skeletal remains of previous meals. None of this is gory, just matter-of-fact: "Owls have hunted in this place, mice have hidden in this wheat one hundred years at least." The poetry and paintings will make children want to learn more about these mysterious creatures. No humans intrude on this venture into barn owl life and the species is different, but the book is a natural lead in to Jane Yolen's Owl Moon (Philomel, 1987).
Sue Sherif, Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Library, AK
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge (July 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0881069825
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881069822
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.2 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Linda on May 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is another great bedtime story. The rhythmic words and repeating phrases roll off the tongue naturally in slow, calm tones. The watercolor paintings echo the quietness of the owls' lives. The minimal text gives a general feel for barn owls' lives. Simple and lovely.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By sunny swimmer on May 13, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My toddler son adores this book, and so do I. The text is melodic and engaging enough to be both captivating and interesting, but not dull in the way so many children's books can be. The illustrations are not as good as the text in my opinion, but still very good and intriguing for young children. This book quickly became a favorite bedtime story in our house, and is one I recommend highly to any parent whose child loves owls or animals in gerneral.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Therese636 on September 16, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My son loves this book. It was funny because he got this same book from a friend of mine for his birthday. He wanted to keep both of them but I suggested we give one to the local library so more people could enjoy it. He tried hiding it from me to keep it but I found it and took it to the library (they already had 2)....
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Format: Paperback
Going to sleep can be magical, in the warm dark, nestled close to a child's own Big Owl. It can also be a little scary, and children can love stories that speak of enduring, continuing lives. "The Barn Owls" is a perfect book to read, re-assuring the little ones of the lastingness of some beautiful things and a lovely story in itself.

The story tells of an old, old barn which has stood in a wheat field for a hundred years or more, and the owl family that lives there. Asleep in the warm hay, awake in the enticingly dark starry night, finding mice to eat, watching the snakes sun themselves and shed their skins, and then, new owls hatch, the old owls are watching over them "...as they have for a hundred years."

Beautifully written, the words are soft, sibilant, like whispers of owls' wings, poetry and lullabye. And the skillfully-realized full-page, full-color paintings of "The Barn Owls" have much to catch a child's eye in each page. They each could be framed, for an owl-loving family.

My children and grandchildren loved this book when they were about 2 to 5 years old; its virtues include being beautiful enough that an Old Owl can enjoy reading it to the new owlets, for a hundred times or more.
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Format: School & Library Binding Verified Purchase
This is a gorgeously drawn poetic owl book that stands out among books about owls for grades K-2.
I actually read it to second and third graders and they loved it. The beautiful illustrations are paired
with lovely rhyming text and is a wonderful introduction to both owls and poetry. Sure to be loved by all!

Sybil Blazej-Yee, Librarian, Children's Book Author, Artist and a Dog Walker
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By Judy on February 9, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Top notch info, artistry and story of owls living, where else, in a barn loft! My grandchildren love it.
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