In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Images of owl motherhood

Dear Aunt Debbie,

As you know, I am always on the lookout for more non-dreadful princess books.  I will check these out as soon as I can get my hands on them.

For Mother's Day, my own lovely mother and father bought me and the girls the complete series of Edith Thacher Hurd and Clement Hurd's Mother Animal books (hooray for Alibris and the finding of things out of print!).

Each book follows the same basic structure: the mother gives birth to a baby, she provides the baby with food, she goes out to look for her own food, either she or the baby is in some kind of danger, but everyone is okay, the baby grows old enough to take care of itself, the mother mates and has a new baby.  As I wrote about in discussing The Mother Whale, Hurd doesn't shy away from the physical details of mating or birth, or facts about what animals eat and how they digest it (a page describing owl pellets!).

The girls have hooded animal towels, and it just so happens that Isabel's is of an orange owl.  Tonight, she and Jeff were playing Owl Father and Owl Child, hunting mice together, and when it came time to read, Isabel grabbed The Mother Owl and said with exceeding joy: "It's an owl book!  It's about us!"

Reproducing the words without Clement Hurd's amazing woodcuts doesn't do these books justice.  Here, then, are images from the beginning, middle, and end of The Mother Owl:
 I love those wide, wide eyes, and then the contrast with the squinty little baby eyes on the next page:

 But kids grow up:

I love this last image, close to the end of the book.  Tired, successful parent owls, nestling in close to each other.  I can relate.

Love, Annie

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