Owl Babies by Martin Waddell is a lovely book for very young children. The story is about three baby owls, Sarah, Percy and Bill, who wake up in the middle of the night and find their mother is gone.
The book has a lovely rhythm to it, although it is not written in poetry form. It's more like a song, with a few gentle rhythmical lines, then one which cuts the rhythm and draws the child's attention, which is excellent for young heads and short attention spans. There are also a few rhymes thrown in which get caught up in the rhythm, and one particular rhyming couplet which is repeated throughout:
"The little owls thought -All owls think a lot"
Which is something for children to hang onto throughout the story. They can also learn to anticipate the second line and eventually join in.
The characters in the book are good too. As the Mother Owl is the only "grown-up" she can be replaced with "Granny Owl" or "Daddy Owl" as appropriate for your child and their main carer, or whoever they might identify this character with. The book is an excellent starting point for discussion with little ones, especially if they are worried about being left somewhere new, like school, nursery, or even at home with a baby-sitter when Mum goes out.
The three owls themselves each have different characters, and adults can easily change the names to match those of the young listeners. In the book, Sarah is the one who seems to look after the other two, so she is probably the older sister (or brother, if you call her Sam, like we do!).
Percy is a little bit younger, and looks up to Sarah for reassurance. I always read Percy with a high squeaky voice which goes down well with the bairns. Poor wee Bill only has one thing to say throughout (more repetition, which means more opportunities for anticipation and joining in). At the end of each page, Bill pipes up:
"I want my mummy!"
Of course the Mother Owl does return in the end, and this is the perfect time to confront any fears or worries in your little ones about Mum or Dad not coming back.
The illustrations, by Patrick Benson are quite dark and spooky, and in my opinion, more attractive to older children than those the book is aimed at. However, this book is available in an extra large size which makes the pictures much more attractive, with the Owls' faces jumping out at your child. Also available as a board book if you are looking for a sturdier copy!
If you are feeling adventurous, or are a teacher or playworker looking to do extension work on this book, there is plenty of opportunity for sensory exploration, especially looking at the materials which the owls' nest is made of (these are listed as part of the story). There are also the elements of birds, animal noises, owls, night animals and animal homes.
This is a lovely book for very young children... there is plenty in this book to make it a longlasting favourite for children and adults.