Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Owls in the Family

I am not sure where I got this title recommendation from, but we really enjoyed reading Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat:
This book reminded me a lot of Homer Price, because the main characters are boys and it is set in the first half of this century.  It illustrates a completely different kind of life than we lead.

Billy (the narrator) and his friend Bruce live in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  He kept referring to the are where he lived as the "prairie."  This confused Catherine, whose one-track mind associates "prairie" with "Kansas" with "The Wizard of Oz."  I had to bring out a map of North America and introduce the girls to Canada.  They thought it was silly that their "states" are called "provinces." 

The two boys spend a lot of time in the woods, presumably because this was a time long before television, video games, and home computers.  As they wander through the woods, they refer to all the trees be their particular species: the cottonwood, or the poplar, etc.  They decide that they want to get a pet owl.  So, they wander through the woods looking at different bird's nests.  As they find them, they refer to them by the particular type of bird which lives in each nest.  Most of the time they don't actually see the birds, they just know nature so well that they are able to identify the nests by species.

This was shocking to me, because I can barely name any type of tree or bird.  Nor has it ever crossed my mind that I should.  I consider it a "nature day" when I take the girls to the park and we spend 5-10 minutes walking near the woods.  We talked about how the boys spent so much time in the woods that they got to know the trees, birds, etc. so well.  The girls are so immersed in electronic entertainment that they could not even comprehend a life like that. 

The boys do find an owl nest.  They know it is an owl nest because there are owl pellets on the ground below it.  The girls dissected owl pellets in our Classical Conversations class, so they were thrilled to read a story which actually discussed what an owl pellet was.  I was so pleased that Sabrina remembered that the owls vomited the pellets up and that both girls recalled that the pellet contained fur & bones which the owls were unable to digest.  I am so pleased at the wide variety of information and activities I can expose the children to.  I truly do not think I had ever heard of an owl pellet until the girls did it in class.  Now, at ages 4 and 7, they know that owls eat small animals whole and vomit out the bones and fur.

In order to catch the owls, the boys decide to ask their teacher for help.  The teacher is a photographer and builds a "blind" in a tree near the nest.  I never know whether the girls are paying attention to the books I read or not (they sometimes do a lot of wiggling).  But, Catherine stopped me and asked what a "blind" was.  I googled it and showed her some pictures.  Then, a few days later, we ended up at the Bass Pro Shops in Gwinnett County (it was near Sabrina's cheerleading competition and a friend of ours needed to buy something).  That store is huge and had an extensive section for Hunting.  As we were wandering around the store, Catherine noticed and pointed out to me the "blinds" that they had for sale.  Bravo for her retention!!

So eventually the two boys catch two baby owls and raise then as pets.  Some, well most, of the stories of what they do with the owls are fantastical.  Frequently I would conclude a chapter and Catherine would say "that is ridiculous."  She was right.  But, it was a light hearted, fun read.

For example, Billy rides his bike two miles to school each day.  One of the owls sits on the handlebars and goes with him.  The girls were shocked that the boys rode their bikes to school.  They do not ride their bikes anywhere.  We have them ride bikes, but more as a fun activity than a mode of transportation.

The ending was a little sad because Billy and his family have to move to Toronto (another geography lesson for the girls).  Bruce and his family had already moved away from Saskatoon.  Billy was not able to take the owls with him, and had to find a new home for them.  Both girls actually teared up when we read this chapter they were so sad. 

When I asked Catherine if she liked the book, she said No.  I asked her why not and she said she did not want any owls in her house.  I asked her why not.  She said that they would use their talons (a new vocabulary word from the book) and break her balloons.  She may not be strong on literary analysis, but she does think and process the plots and situations in the books we read!

I highly recommend this book, especially if you have boys and/or nature lovers.  There are 11 chapters and we read 2 or 3 chapters in a setting.  There are quite a few fun illustrations.

1 comment:

gingerbread stalker said...

that sounds super cool! :) i will be sure to check that out
i'm a big fan of your blog and if you could comment on mine or follow me it would mean ever so much :) <3