As a child, I knew children’s author-illustrator Arnold Lobel for his fabulously funny, slyly philosophical Frog and Toad books. Lobel died young (downer), but he did create at least one other iconic animal character to help kids and adults alike through this bumpy journey called life: Owl.
Owl at Home shares the Frog and Toad books’ virtues of empathy and humor, coziness and comically unfounded terror. Both of my kids loved Owl.
When he was 7, my older son saw me typing up my thoughts on Owl at Home and asked me, “Is this review going to go to the person who wrote the book?”
“No,” I said authoritatively, “unfortunately the man who wrote it died a long time ago.”
“How do you know he died?”
“Uh, I looked it up on the internet,” I mumbled, ashamed.
“Did he make another chubby owl story?”
Alas, no. In any case, it would have been a tough act to follow. This is the finest group of chubby owl stories ever written. “He made the owl so chubby,” my son said. The owl is indeed very cute and also, according to my kids, “very, very crazy” and “very stupid.” But endearingly so. “Tear-Water Tea” is as funny as anything I’ve come across in a children’s book, including the wickedly funny George and Martha. So is “Strange Bumps.” It’s perfect as is–one would almost hate to see a sequel involving an arrogant badger or annoying weasel (even as a fan of stories with a good annoying weasel). Owl’s character is wedded to a confrontation with nature that he must carry out alone, without weasels and badgers to aid or hamper him. That’s because, behind the children’s illustrations and large type and simple words is a rather profound reflection of the confused and eager state of the human being alone with himself–and even of the human condition altogether, so eager and confused and alone in the wilderness.