Thursday, 25 May 2017

Classic Children's Books: The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson

Book Review

"Plop was fat and fluffy.
He had a beautiful heart-shaped ruff.
He had enormous, round eyes.
He had very knackety knees.
In fact, he was exactly the same as every baby barn owl that has ever been - except for one thing.
Plop was afraid of the dark."

The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark is written by Jill Tomlinson and illustrated by Paul Howard. It is published by Egmont.

My last review was on a book about kidnapping and rape and now here's a review about an owl called Plop who's scared of the dark, I like to mix it up.

I thought I'd do another review of books from my childhood. I loved The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark when I was younger, I think I had the audio book on cassette too (yes, I'm old) and used to listen to it before I went to sleep. It's funny, it's sweet and it teaches children not to be afraid of the dark without being preachy.

Plop, the Baby Barn Owl, is like every Barn Owl there ever was, except for one thing—he is afraid of the dark. "Dark is nasty" he says, and so he won't go hunting with his parents. Mrs. Barn Owl sends him down from his nest-hole to ask about the dark and he meets a little boy waiting for the fireworks to begin, an old lady, a scout out camping, a girl who tells him about Father Christmas, a man with a telescope, and a black cat who takes him exploring. He realizes through these encounters that dark is super after all.

Throughout the story Plop (good name) meets different people and who all appreciate the dark in one way or another.

The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson - Reading, Writing, Booking

It's formulaic,, but it doesn't feel rigid, Tomlinson gets the balance just right between the repetitive tone that young children appreciate and a sense of fun and imagination that lifts this story, making it stand out in the memory.

I'm also in awe of the way Tomlinson can bring characters right off the page with just a few sentences. With several characters making cameos it would be easy for them to be two dimensional, but from the little girl with the longest ponytail in her class, to the manners-obsessed old lady, they all feel real and engaging.

Plop's also a great character, he could easily be sickeningly twee as an owl who's afraid of the dark, but his incessant appetite, failed landings and ability to irritate his parents without realising makes him both appealing to children and adults, who will be able to see resemblances to their own stubborn offspring.

The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark was first published in 1968 but it holds up surprisingly well. There are a few "supers" and "jolly goods" which date it a little but they're not too distracting.

The illustrations in my edition are by Paul Howard and they're beautifully soft yet detailed. With the topic of the book it would have been easy for the publishers to go cartoony, but these more realistic and classic illustrations make the book feel timeless and are ideal for the round and fluffy baby owl.

The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson - Reading, Writing, Booking

My Rating: 5/5

Did anyone else read The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark when they were younger?

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