Visiting a New Friend: A Review of ‘Owl at Home’

“Never shall I forget the times I spent with you.  Please continue to be my friend as you will always find me yours.”  Ludwig Van Beethoven

Reading Level:

K-1

Review and Thoughts

Reading the story of Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel makes the reader feel like a guest visiting the home of an innocent and trusting friend.  There is time spent by a nice warm fireplace, a comfy bed, and a peaceful seaside setting.  With every vacation however, there are also unexpected events.  This short holiday provides a glimpse into Owl’s simple life which to him is quite extraordinary.

Our visit with Owl begins with loud noises outside his house during a winter storm.  He eventually realizes it is Winter knocking on his door.  Owl invites Winter into his house to get warm like a good friend who is concerned.   As one can imagine it does not go well.  Winter blows through Owl’s house with terrible consequences.  Owl tries to be a good host but finally orders Winter to leave when he recognizes the situation is not good for him.  Winter does eventually leave and things return to “normal” as Owl quietly settles by his nice warm fireplace.

Then there is a bit of scare for Owl while settling in bed for the night.  He notices two bumps under his blanket at the bottom of his bed.  He is baffled by the bumps, and his imagination begins to envision unusual things. Does this stop him from investigating?  Absolutely not.  Brave Owl checks to see what the strange bumps could possibly be and sees only darkness.  He moves his feet and the bumps move also, but he is still confused. Jumping up and down on the bed does not get rid of the bumps either.  Owl finally decides to leave the bumps in his room and spend the night by his comfortable fireplace where he feels safe once again.  

We all have friends who are a bit different, but we accept them for who they are.  While visiting, we will see that Owl’s actions seem just plain peculiar at one point.  He decides to make some “tear-water tea.”  First, he sits down and begins to think of things that make him sad – chairs with broken legs, songs not sung, books that cannot be read, and mornings that nobody sees. The melancholy thoughts he brings to mind are kind of sad when one thinks of each scenario.  These simple things that no one enjoys seem to have a lonely existence and this brings tears to his eyes.  The tears begin to flow as he cries into the tea kettle and after awhile the kettle is filled.  Then Owl makes tea using his tears.  He is satisfied and again happy as he sits down with a cup of his tear-water tea and declares that the tea is a “bit salty but very good.”  Oh, Owl, you are a quirky fellow!

As a visitor to Owl’s house we see an upstairs and a downstairs.  This common layout eventually presents a dilemma for Owl.  He wonders how downstairs is when he is upstairs, and when he is upstairs he wonders how the downstairs is.  He has the idea to try to be in both places at once.  He runs as fast as he can up and down the stairs, but after many attempts Owl is tired. He decides to sit on the stairs halfway – right in the middle of the upstairs and downstairs.  That seems like a very fair thing to do.

Our visit with Owl is coming to an end. We see him watching the moon come up over the edge of the sea. When it is time to leave he says good-bye to the moon but notices Moon is following him home. He insists Moon should stay over the sea because it does so well in that location.  Moon goes behind some clouds and Owl is satisfied that Moon listened to him and stayed over the sea although he is a bit sad at the same time. As he gets ready for bed his room becomes bright when the moon comes out from behind the clouds.  Owl is no longer sad because his good friend Moon is there with him.  We all need a friend who lights the darkness and takes away the sadness.  As we say good-bye to Owl, we remember our visit and our special friend with a simple heart

Owl at Home is an “I Can Read” book and one that is just right for emerging readers. Younger children will enjoy the story as a read aloud book. The chapters are not too long and the vocabulary is ideal for this audience.  Children will enjoy visiting Owl as a new friend and being a part of his unique experiences.

Arnold Lobel is also the author of the Frog and Toad series. Read our review here.

[This is a personal observation about the first chapter entitled “The Guest”.  Owl hears someone at his door and answers it two times but sees no one.  It struck me that this scenario is so similar to Samuel’s story in the Bible (1 Samuel, chapter 3}.  Of course Samuel hears God’s voice and that is quite different from Owl’s experience.  The second part of the chapter shows the chaos Owl experiences when he willingly allows Winter into his home. To me, Winter seems more like temptation. Owl realizes his life is now in turmoil and he orders Winter to leave. Finally, we see his life becomes calm and peaceful once more.]

Further Discussion:

  • Make a list of the personality traits of Owl based his stories in the book.
  • Draw a picture of Owl doing something different than the episodes in the book.  Write a few sentences explaining his new experience.
  • Ask your child what things make him or her sad.  Discuss the feelings these experiences evoke.

Catholic Resources:

Ephesians 4: “I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.” [http://www.usccb.org/bible/ephesians/4]

Living alone can be challenging in today’s society.

  • Discuss ways to help and support someone who lives alone. (Examples:  sweep the front walk, shovel snow, deliver homemade cookies, invite him or her to dinner)
  • A Prayer for Those Who Live Alone

I live alone, Dear Lord, stay by my side,

in all my needs, please by my guide.

Grant me good health, for that I pray,

to carry on my work each day.

Keep pure my mind, my thoughts and deeds.

Help me be kind to meet others’ needs.

Save me from harm and malicious tongues,

from pain and fear and evil ones.

When I am sick, in need of care,

O Lord, I pray, that you be near.

When I am low or in despair,

lift up my heart and hear my prayer.

I live alone, dear Lord, yet have no fear,

because I know that you are near.

Amen.

[From Daily Prayers; Priests of the Sacred Heart]

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