Text: Eve Bunting
Illustrations: Charles Mikolaycak
A stranger’s cruel actions towards a kind Owl Man are sure to alarm the young reader. The stranger’s desire to possess the Owl Man’s ability is scary, however does ask the reader to think about what may provoke such negative behaviour in any human.
Although I wish for good to prevail for all characters, it is difficult not to rejoice in the victory the owls have in attacking the stranger, recognising him as foe, despite his attempt to disguise himself in the Owl Man’s white cloak and willow wand. We are equally satisfied when the Owls’ recognise the young boy who emulates the Owl Man, as a friend.
This story left me feeling fulfilled with its notion of connectedness between the animal and human world, and the natural acts of kindness and love exchanged to protect each other, even though the story alludes to the supernatural. Bunting cleverly shows us that the ‘magic’ is simply this unique bond; that which allows the Owl man to heal the Owls, and that which draws the Owls to him.
The dramatic tone of the story is enriched by Mikolaycak’s powerful black and white pencil illustrations, highlighted with a blue border; marking a mood which can only be felt by the reader.
An interesting exploration with children may be to look at black and white art in other picture books. How does the use of colour affect the mood of the story and the reader? What different media is used?
Some titles in black and white to explore: