Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

I've long maintained that the Brothers Grimm and Mother Goose are not for children. Adam Gidwitz proves my point, but actually makes more accurate versions of the stories accessible for the young, and the young at heart. Hansel and Gretel, in this book, are not poor, helpless children who use their brains to outsmart an evil witch -- they are kick-ass, sometimes helpless, determined, resourceful, smart kids who fall into misfortune, but toughen up, learn new skills, and fight their way (either by bravery, brain, or plain pluckiness) out of their difficulties. Gidwitz has incorporated several tales into this story of Hansel and Gretel, with true under-standing (read the book; that's not a typo). The narration style reminded me a little of grandfather talking about Wesley and Buttercup. Gobbled this up in one sitting.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Wesley the Owl by Stacey O'Brien

I am a bird-lover, bird-watcher, and some say, bird-brain. When on a field trip out to one of the plantations, with my son's 3rd grade class, I overheard him tell a classmate who was wondering what type of bird they'd just seen fly overhead, "Ask my mom. She knows her birds." For the past few springs, we've had a pair of screech owls nest near our bedroom window, and they and their offspring put us on the path to The Way of the Owl. Owls abound here by Lake Frances -- I onetime heard the call of 4 different types in the evening. When my cousin came to visit, she brought this book with her, and passed it along to me, knowing my affinity for owls.

Wesley was a 4 day old injured fledgling barn owl when Stacey O'Brien, a biologist working with owls at CalTech met him. His injury was such that he could not be habilitated to survive in the wild successfully, and he was placed in Stacey's care. This book is the story of the remarkable relationship that followed over the next 19 years. It's a wonderful story, full of juicy facts for bird lovers, and wonderful stories for animal lovers in general, both heartwarming and heart-breaking. And yes, Wesley dies in the end, but not before surpassing the life expectancy of a barn owl in the wild, which is roughly 15 years. His distinct personality will remain with me as well as much that he and Stacey taught me. I also applaud the author, for she truly reshaped her life around her charge, even though she kept his presence in her life relatively quiet, for fear of activists who were bent on freeing "captured" wild animals setting Wesley loose into a habitat he would have been unable to survive.

The tag line for this book is "the remarkable love story of an owl and his girl."  I couldn't agree more.