Dogs, cats, gerbils, rabbits, horses…People love their pets, even the unusual ones. Have you ever had an unusual pet? Something like a snake, a llama, a ferret or a robin? If you’ve ever had or longed for an unusual pet, Owls in the Family, by Farley Mowat, is a book for you.
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When Billy and his friend Bruce went for a hike on the prairies of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, they were looking for owl nests. It was a hot and dirty hike, and after a lot of false finds, they found one–a great horned owl’s nest, with baby owlets in it. They wanted to take an owlet to raise as a pet, but with pet rats, rabbits, gophers, garter snakes, and pigeons as pets at home, plus his dog Mutt, Billy’s father says “No.”
Billy takes the baby home, and names it Wol. Only a few days later, he ends up rescuing a second owlet from a neighborhood bully, trading his good pocketknife for it. He names the second owl Weeps. Wol takes to Weeps right away, and Billy is soon the proud guardian of two baby owls.
Two growing owls need lots of food and attention! As they grow, Wol and Weeps develop distinct personalities…one being a bit of a clown, the other a hunter, who terrorizes poor Mutt and brings home things like dead skunks at dinnertime. Billy doesn’t mind, although his mother does.
Growing up isn’t easy, with Owls in the Family!
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This is a great book for animal lovers, or for readers who want to see how different things were growing up before computers, nintendos and even television. Owls in the Family was published in 1961, but based on the author’s childhood on the Saskatachewan prairie in the 1930s. He wrote several books for young readers, including The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, about Mutt (who also appears in Owls in the Family) and many other books for both adults and teens.
Owls in the Family is a short book, just under a hundred pages long. It’s a fast read, and a great read-aloud. It’s funny, heart-warming and it can be the source of some great family discussions. It’s easy enough that a good third grade reader would be able to read it, but the subject matter should appeal to kids as old as middle school, and even older.
One caution about this review–although the idea of having an owl as a pet might be appealing, it’s now illegal to own a wild raptor. Several years ago, a friend actually saw a baby Great Horned owlet that had fallen out of the nest in Weston. We watched the baby owl for a couple days, hoping that the parents were feeding it, and scared away some crows that were bothering it. During a drenching downpour, we decided to go rescue the baby owl, if it was still there. It was, and we brought it home, dried it off, fed it a combination of catfood and egg yolk, and called the Massachusetts Environmental Police. They came and brought it to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center, to be raised and then released back into the wild.
But if you find owls appealing, and like the idea of an owl as a pet, try Owls in the Family. Follow up with a non-fiction book on owls, and then try to see or hear a great horned owl in your neighborhood. They’re out there!