Monday, May 2, 2016

Owl Moon           
 by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by John Schoenherr
 Published 1987

Awards: 1988 Caldecott Winner

 Owl Moon is one of Jane Yolen’s many treasures that she has given the world!

Yolen’s masterful use of language-descriptive words so naturally and beautifully woven into the  fabric of this narrative-make Owl Moon an outstanding mentor text in writing workshop. 

Although the story presents itself as a simple picture book to be used with the lower elementary grades, the depth of Yolen’s writer’s craft makes Owl Moon an excellent mentor for older elementary and even middle school students.

The free verse form in which the story is written demonstrates to student writers that the text of the story does not have to be ‘heavy’ or dense to be meaningful and impactful to one’s audience. Owl Moon would also be an excellent mentor for memoir or small moment.

Interviews with Jane Yolen reveal that Owl Moon reflects activities her family did when her children were young. 

Book Talk
A young girl finally gets her chance at a long-time family activity and tradition—going out into the woods on a cold, quiet winter’s night with her father to go owling.

She describes her quiet walk with her father through the night—the sound she hears from the trees, the crunch of the footsteps on the snow, the animals, a far away train.  She also reveals  her excitement of being with her father (like all of her siblings before her) and possibly, possibly seeing an owl.

Some favorite lines:
"Our feet crunched
over the crisp snow
and little gray footprints 
followed us.
Pa made a long shadow,
but mine was short and round.
I had to run after him
every now and then
to keep up,
and my short, round shadow
bumped after me."

Father tries to call to the owl several times, but all that is heard back is silence. They don’t hurry  as they know that owing requires patience and perseverance.

Father and daughter continue to quietly travel through the night-calling, listening and moving along.

Finally—a brief answer to Father’s call. They wait and their patience is rewarded with more calls— and then the sighting of the magnificent owl!  The owl and girl stare at each other—take each other in, admire each other—-and then the owl is off.

More favorite lines:
"All of a sudden
an owl shadow,
part of the big tree shadow,
lifted off
and flew right over us.
We watched silently
with heat in our mouths,
the heat of all those words
we had not spoken.
The shadow hooted again."

Father and daughter quietly walk back home with the experience settling in their hearts and minds—becoming part of who they are.

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Realistic Fiction
Reading Workshop Strategies: Fluency, Questioning, Connecting, Inferring, Synthesizing, Visualizing
Writing Workshop Strategies: Narrative, Personal Narrative,Q Memoir, Elaboration, Grammar, Inspiring Writers, Writer’s Craft

Jane Yolen’s website:


  1. I love sharing this book with my students in the late fall during our nocturnal animals study! The descriptive language is wonderful to share students!

  2. Your students are very, very lucky to have you as a teacher, Susan! ;-D