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This site is dedicated to exploring children's fiction.
I write it, read it, teach it and increasingly feel the need to talk about. Please feel free to join the conversation otherwise it will be a monologue and they can get quite dull.
My current project is concerned with transformations in children's writing.
If you have any suggestions or favourite books which deal with transformation please let me know.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Owl in Love: Patricia Kindl published by Graphia 1993

I'm not sure I can include this US published book in my study which is a great pity because it is great; funny, moving and cleverly written. Owl is a rather odd school girl with a crush on her science teacher, Mr Lindstrom. She has no friends, lives with her strange parents in an empty crumbling mansion and never eats at school. This is because she is a wereowl, who lives by hunting small animals and can't fly if she eats human food. Owls bond for life and the fact that Mr Lindstrom is forty, balding with an ex wife and possibly a crazy son, does nothing to put Owl off. She has told her unworldly parents of her intention to marry Mr Lindstrom and they are entirely behind her, even discovering some distant connection between their families, though even they are a little bored with her obsessive observations of him. Two things happen to change things: the first is she begins to make a friend, Dawn, when she needs to borrow someone else's blood for a science experiment, her own is black; the second is that Owl sees a strange owl at the edge of her territory who is quite unable to hunt and a skinny boy has stolen Mr Lindstrom's camping equipment and is camping in the woods by his house.
 Owl fights the strange owl and injures him and then when she sees a naked boy bleeding black blood onto the snow realises he is like herself, a were owl. She names him 'Houle' and enlists Dawn's help to keep him hidden and warm in Dawn's heated garage, begging various herbal cures for fever form her mother. The reader guesses some time before Owl herself that the strange boy Owl calls Houle, who looks so like herself that Dawn assumed it was her brother, is David, Mr Linstrom's son who has escaped from a mental facility. We guess too that the strange woman Owl calls 'the Wailing woman' is his wife. When Dawn tells Lindstrom that she has found his son, Owl initially believes that Dawn wants Lindstrom for herself. He wants to take the his son to his mother indoors and Owl, still in bird form attacks him and calls Houle to herself in the mating cry which forces his transformation into a bird. Dawn, finally understanding her secret, demands to talk to Owl at which point she changes back and is persuaded to allow Lindstrom to look after his son until such a time as they can be together in the human world as well as the bird one. owl realises that Dawn was never after Mr Lindstrom but another boy in their year to whom she was particularly rude to.
 Owl is intelligent but entertainingly slow to grasp the intricacies of the human world, she can quote literature with ease but has little grasp of the modern world and, until invited home by Dawn, never travelled in 'an automobile' and yet she is never other than sympathetic, when watching her Mr Lindstrom from a tree as he sleeps, when struggling not to eat Dawn's hamster and beginning to grasp that her parents are not best equipped to advise her on her increasingly complicated life. It is about friendship, accommodating strangeness and learning to understand the other. Perhaps it also reminds teen readers that there is someone out there for you, even if you are an owl.

This book won the Mythopaoic Children's Fantasy Award in 1995 and also a Golden Kite. I can see why it has a great voice and a clever plot.

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