Some books are a joy to read and give pleasure to those who open their pages and peek inside. They take you into the world of the characters and transport you into other places, with other people. When you find a book like this you have to share and pass it on to others to experience the wonder you have found within the binding. Old Hushwing is one of these books. It is a truly beautiful children's picture book that would be a welcome addition to any child's collection. Written by Alan Brown and ably illustrated by Angelo Rinaldi, this is one of those favourite storytime books that is a popular choice among our customers in the library.
The plot is simple, but if you don't want to know then please avoid this next paragraph! - It is the story of a young boy called Billy who lives in the countryside. Billy finds that there is a barn owl living in the old barn near his house and he is thrilled by watching it and is excited because he thinks it is his little secret. He lies in bed at night listening to it swooping and hunting. The problem begins for him when he finds out the barn is to be converted to make room for Billy's extending family - his mum is having a baby and they need more space. Billy is very upset and, although the builders make sure there is a high up place for the owl in the conversion plans, the work scares the owl away. Billy isn't happy, but time passes and his attention is taken for a while helping with his new little sister Hannah. As spring comes Billy is out in the garden climbing a tree. The story ends as he is excited to find that the owl has returned...bringing his mate (Mrs. Hushwing) with him.
WHAT I THOUGHT
Although the story is pretty basic and has probably been told before, it is in the telling and the illustrations that Old Hushwing really wins through. The book begins with Alan Brown giving a little background about the story - he explains that Old Hushwing is the country name for the Barn Owl mainly because they silently fly and swoop by night. The story is told with feeling and compassion, making the reader (and the child who is being read to) empathise and identify with Billy. His initial joy is portrayed well, as is his distress when the owl goes away. We also feel we have gone through the events with him and there is a genuine sense of relief when Old Hushwing and Mrs. Hushwing return with the good weather in the spring.
The soft, very beautiful coloured illustrations add to the atmosphere of the tale. They are expertly executed and are almost like soft focus photographs. They are as gentle as Alan Brown's narrative and go really well with the whole feel of the book. We learn a lot about Billy from the pictures as well as the text - he loves the countryside, is a feeling, gentle and caring person who has a sympathy and understanding for nature. We also feel his dilemma when he learns about his mum having a baby. He is pleased at the news and also happy that he is to have a nice new bedroom in the barn conversion. His joy quickly turns to guilt and he is unhappy that their actions seem to have driven the owl away - perhaps into danger.
Aimed at the younger audience, Old Hushwing is aimed to be read aloud and the pictures meant to be shared by the reader and the fortunate child who is listening. My only problem with using it as a bedtime read is that you may have to try and get it finished in one sitting. Stopping when the owl flies away may lead to a disturbed night as your little one may fret for the safety of the bird. A bit of reassurance may help - but continuing to the happy ending is the best way to get a settled and happy child!
Old Hushwing is a powerful tale despite the gentleness of the words and pictures. It is stunningly illustrated and is a real pleasure to read. The text is full of imagery and the pictures make it a classic bedtime read. As well as being a great story it can also serve as a useful tool for teaching children about the countryside and the problems of animals losing their homes.
I read my copy of Old Hushwing after borrowing it from the Children's Library where I work. This book is one that I would recommend buying and keeping to read over and over again. It is delightful and definitely one to keep, save and cherish with your children.
* Paperback: 32 pages
* Publisher: Picture Lions; New Ed edition (7 Jun 1999)
* Language English
* ISBN-10: 0006646492
* ISBN-13: 978-0006646495
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