Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Good Night, Owl by Greg Pizzoli

Hello, Misti here! Today, let’s take a look at the many distinguished elements in Good Night Owl by Greg Pizzoli.

As the story begins, it’s time for bed, but Owl can’t sleep – there is a noise in his house.  Every time Owl gets comfortable in bed, he hears a squeaking sound.  In pursuit of the noise, Owl empties his cupboard, tears up his floorboards, removes his roof, and eventually demolishes the walls of his house.  In the end, Owl discovers the source of the squeaking: a little gray mouse that the reader has known about all along.  Mystery solved, both Owl and his noisy new friend can finally get some sleep.

The first criterion listed for the Geisel Award is that the book should be intriguing enough to motivate the child to read.  Owl’s over-the-top reactions to his squeaky visitor are sure to delight young readers, who will no doubt be anxious to see exactly how much damage Owl will do to his house in order to locate the noise – and will he ever get to sleep?  This book exemplifies the “page-turning dynamic,” and it does so without dragging a sentence out over a page turn.  For beginning readers, this is a real boon, as it allows them to easily scan back if they’re having trouble parsing a sentence or finding their place. When sentences do break, either onto a new line or onto a facing page, the break is intentional and logical. The text is also well-placed in this book, generally right below or above the illustrations on an illustrated page, or centered on the solid-color pages without illustrations.  There is always enough contrast between the text and the background, and the font is large.  Instances of challenging vocabulary, like “floorboards,” are repeated to good effect, and accompanied by illustrations which support difficult words and concepts.

Of course, no book is perfect, and there are a few areas of concern when considering how well this book works for beginning readers.  Some sentences are long and complex.  For example, early in the book we see, “It was a tiny sound, no louder than a whisper; a funny noise he hadn’t heard before.” That’s seventeen words, a semicolon, and a contraction! Also, several sentences start with “And,” “But,” or “So.”  This conversational style is more casual than one usually observes in books for beginning readers.  The casual style also extends to the mouse’s vocalizations – it always says “Squeek!” rather than the less visually appealing, but technically correct, “Squeak.” And, speaking of that mouse, though it’s prominent in the illustrations, it is never actually identified in the text.

Still, there’s so much to appreciate about this book.  Pizzoli’s deliberate color palette and humorous illustrations give the book undeniable visual appeal as well as supporting and enhancing the text.  The plot is compelling and funny, and there are plenty of delightful details, from Owl’s pink bed jacket to his cabinet full of curios, some of which look suspiciously familiar to readers who have experienced this author’s earlier works!  Though there are a few areas where beginning readers may struggle, the narrative flow should carry them on to the conclusion, resulting in a successful reading experience.
If you’ve read this book, we’d love to hear your thoughts – and if you’ve shared it with beginning readers, let us know how they handled it!

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