Monday, November 7, 2016

Owl Sees Owl by Laura Godwin, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey

Image from
Hi Guessing Geiselers! Amy here. Ready to take a look at Laura Godwin and Rob Dunlavey's picture book, Owl Sees Owl

Under the cover of night, a little baby owl sets off on an adventure to see its reflection in a pond and then returns to the safety of sister, brother, and mother. Quiet, calm, and reassuring, this is possibly the most comforting picture book on our list of Geisel contenders. Let’s take a look at first the text and then the illustrations.

The text uses just 29 unique words, many of which are sight words. Each two page spread shows four capitalized words. There’s no punctuation, just descriptive words that narrate the owl’s journey. Readers encounter all 29 words once on the owl’s journey to the pond and then a second time in reverse order as the owl flies home. The white text is printed in a large, easy to read font that stands out against the dark, nighttime backgrounds. There's plenty of white space around and between text, too.

Another element to consider is the lack of punctuation paired with the capitalization of all words. Does this poem-like format create a successful reading experience for beginning readers? In some cases, single words on their own are very strong. Such as in this spread with the text, “Fall / Leaves / Red / Yellow”:

Image from Owl Sees Owl by Laura Godwin, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey
However, there are places where it could be helpful to know when two words relate to one another (I say this with the complete awareness that this would take away from the minimalist reverso poem format). Take this spread for example, which includes the words, “Stars / Twinkle / Mice / Scamper”: 

Image from Owl Sees Owl by Laura Godwin, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey
It could be helpful to have some punctuation or design clues for readers to know that the words “stars” and “twinkle” are a pair, followed by a second pair of related words, “mice” and “scamper.”

The illustrations, rendered in watercolor, colored pencil, ink, collage, and digital media, feature many strong visual context clues. Take a look at this spread showing the words “Tree / Nest / Hop / Look”: 

Image from Owl Sees Owl by Laura Godwin, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey
The tree and nest are placed on the left page, then the eye follows the hopping dashed line, and finally there's the owl, looking down. This helps readers by following the left to right convention of reading in English.

Although most visual context clues are strong, there are a few confusing spreads. For instance, this spread shows the owl flying with the four words, “Moon / Beam / Eyes / Gleam.”

Image from Owl Sees Owl by Laura Godwin, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey
Unfortunately, there’s no moon in the illustration and the word “gleam” may be unfamiliar to many new readers. However, a strong sense of the rhythm and rhyme of the text has been established, so perhaps this will help readers navigate this passage.

When considering text and illustrations combined, it seems this quiet bedtime story lacks urgency. It’s not clear why owl takes off on an adventure or why it flies away from the pond. This, in part, is due to the owl’s demeanor. Without clear body language or facial expressions, it's hard to get clues to strong feelings. For these reasons, I feel this book falls short when it comes to the Geisel criteria of having a strong page-turning dynamic.

Finally, I wonder if some new readers will consider the cover and contents of this book too “babyish.” Will they stop at the cover before they even have a chance to explore the book? What do you think? Have you read this book with kids? How did they react?

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