Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

Hoot Owl

Master of Disguise

by Sean Taylor

illustrated by Jean Jullien


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Hoot Owl

Master of Disguise

by Sean Taylor
illustrated by Jean Jullien

Reviewed March 17, 2015.
Candlewick Press, 2014. 48 pages.
Starred Review
2015 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #3 Picture Books

This book makes me laugh out loud -- and then I can't resist reading the whole thing aloud in a dramatic voice. I think I will be booktalking this book with the younger elementary school grades this year. It uses simple sentences and is easy to read, and is brilliantly funny.

The stage is set on the page before the title page:

Watch out!
I am Hoot Owl!
I am hungry.

And here I come!

One by one, Hoot Owl spots a tasty animal. His narration includes dramatizations like this:

The darkness of midnight is all around me.
But I fly through it as quick as a shooting star.

And look there . . .
a tasty rabbit for me to eat.
Soon my sharp beak will be gobbling that rabbit up!

The next page contains a refrain that is repeated with all the objects of Hoot Owl's desire:

Everyone knows that owls are wise.
But as well as being wise,
I am a master of disguise.

I devise a costume.

Look --

I disguise myself as . . .

With the rabbit, he disguises himself as a carrot. With the sheep, he disguises himself as a mother sheep, with the pigeon, he disguises himself as an ornamental birdbath, and with the pizza, he disguises himself as a waiter. Which one of those disguises do you think works? With which one of those disguises do you think the prey does not go away?

So the final joke is, forgive me, a hoot. But along the way, I love Hoot Owl's dramatic attitude. The atmospheric lines in between finding prey are wonderful:

The night has a thousand eyes,
and two of them are mine.
I swoop through the bleak blackness
like a wolf in the air.

How can I resist reading this aloud?

And look there . . .

a pigeon stands,
trembling,
afraid that
a dangerous
creature-of-the-dark,
such as an owl,
might be passing by!

When Hoot Owl finally does satisfy his hunger, the world can sleep again...

Until Hoot Owl returns.