'Owl Moon'

Story Time

January 13, 1999|By Jane Yolen

Editor's note: In this excerpt from the Caldecott Medal-winning book written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr, a father and daughter trek into the woods on a winter's night to see the Great Horned Owl.

We went into the woods.

The shadows

were the blackest things

I had ever seen.

They stained the white snow.

My mouth felt furry,

for the scarf over it

was wet and warm.

I didn't ask

what kinds of things

hide behind black trees

in the middle of the night.

When you go owling

you have to be brave.

Then we came to a clearing

in the dark woods.

The moon was high above us.

It seemed to fit

exactly

over the center of the clearing

and the snow below it

was whiter than the milk

in a cereal bowl.

I sighed

and Pa held up his hand

at the sound.

I put my mittens

over the scarf

over my mouth

and listened hard.

And then Pa called:

"Whoo-whoo-who-who-who-whooooooo.

Whoo-whoo-who-who-who-whoooooooo."

I listened

and looked so hard

my ears hurt

and my eyes got cloudy

with the cold.

Pa raised his face

to call out again,

but before he could open his mouth

an echo

came threading its way

through the trees.

"Whoo-whoo-who-who-who-whooooooo."

Pa almost smiled.

Then he called back:

"Whoo-whoo-who-who-who-whooooooo,"

just as if he

and the owl

were talking about supper

or about the woods

or the moon

or the cold.

I took my mitten

off the scarf

off my mouth,

and I almost smiled, too.

The owl's call came closer,

from high up in the trees

on the edge of the meadow.

Nothing in the meadow moved.

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.

Pa turned on

his big flashlight

and caught the owl

just as it was landing

on a branch.

For one minute,

three minutes,

maybe even a hundred minutes,

we stared at one another.

Then the owl

pumped its great wings

and lifted off the branch

like a shadow without sound.

It flew back into the forest.

"Time to go home,"

Pa said to me.

I knew then that I could talk,

I could even laugh out loud.

But I was a shadow

as we walked home.

When you go owling

you don't need words

or warm

or anything but hope.

That's what Pa says.

The kind of hope

that flies

on silent wings

under a shining

Owl Moon.

From OWL MOON written by Jane Yolen. Text copyright c 1987 by Jane Yolen. Illustrations c 1987 by John Schoenherr. Reprinted by permission of Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.

Pub Date: 01/13/99

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