” Everyone knows
owls are wise.
But as well as
I am a master
I organise a costume.
I disguise myself as…
an ornamental bird bath.”
Being partial to an owl or two, I find it very hard not to go over the top here. I think you’ll agree I managed to keep the owl quota on the photo down to the bare minimum. It’s all about applying appropriate levels of restraint and I think I’ve succeeded in that.
Hoot Owl Master of Disguise is a fearsome hunter who, like Liam Neeson in Taken, has a very particular set of skills. By employing a variety of cunning disguises, he attempts to outwit his prey in order to fill his tummy. The results of this will have you rolling around wheezing like a drain with laughter, regardless of age, but will probably best appreciated by those with at least three years under their belts.
Sean Taylor himself is a bit of a master at this writing lark- not just the sentences, but the space around them (if that doesn’t sound too fancy) which gives the one reading out loud the gift of comic timing and makes them sound like a comedy genius. How kind!
The descriptive language is very poetic and for me the hero of the hour, with gems such as
“The shadowy night stretches away forever, as black as burnt toast.”
Jean Jullien’s illustrations are strong lined and smooth, with flat clashing colours and excellent use of big eyes imperceptibly changing but telling us exactly what the characters are thinking. His artwork is as creative as Taylor’s words, making this a pretty much perfect picture book.
The more I research authors, the less surprised I am to find out that the most creative story tellers are usually poets too. Sean Taylor’s own poetry is well worth a look and teachers will be pleased to hear that he also does workshops and school visits. I can’t imagine these would be anything less than brilliant.
Hoot Owl Master of Disguise has it all: great art, humour and owls. No wonder it’s been shortlisted for the Laugh Out Loud Book Awards, or Lollies, in the picture book category.
I strongly encourage that anyone in need of a bit of a cheer up should check out Hoot Owl Master of Disguise and display it proudly thereafter on their coffee table as a thing of great beauty and infinite wisdom.
Hoot Owl Master of Disguise is a picture book of true glory, and a proper hoot to boot.
Notes for Teachers on Poetry
When I was in primary school and our fourth year teacher introduced poetry, she told us that poets used something called Artistic License. It was years before I realised this wasn’t an actual thing you had to apply for once you’d made the decision to enter the creative industries as a career, which was a shame because I really wanted one. Poetry for me was amazing, because not only could you combine it with illustration, but using drawings actually made it look even better! You could act it out too- we performed on local radio as a class, each reading a line or so of our group creation. It was something I bet not one of us has forgotten the thrill of.
Nowadays poetry is way, way undervalued in most primary schools- at least in my experience- and it’s such a shame because kids love reading it, writing it and hearing it. If you go in any primary classroom and take a look at what the kids are choosing to read in their own time, I guarantee you’ll see lots of them have chosen poetry books. They choose them because they’re exciting; for the variety of subjects and the way they make them feel, plus they look interesting and can feel friendlier than a big fiction text.
They can hear them in their heads, enjoy reading them out loud and performing them with friends. It’s a total no-brainer that this is a great way to develop reading for pleasure, because kids are already choosing to do it!
Try to, if you can, ignore the lacklustre approach the government takes to poetry in our current Primary Programme of Study for English (poetry is mentioned 11 times, as opposed to spelling’s 102 times plus there’s another document entirely devoted to all things SPAG…) and try to comfort yourself that poetry is at least hazily acknowledged in this document to be key in children developing a positive attitude to reading and a good way of getting kids reading for pleasure, which is something we can all agree on.
Teach it for its own sake, without trying to tailor it to a specific outcome, as you would teach art ( I hope). Talk, act, draw, sing, laugh, work together, get a poet in. Even get Sean Taylor in, or at least remember to check out his poetry here.
Follow the sage advice of wise owl Brian Moses who knows his onions about how to raise the profile of poetry. Take a look at his ten point plan here and share it with your colleagues. Go, do it now.