Yolen, J. (1987) Owl Moon. New York: Philomel Books.
Grades: Prek-k, 1-2, 3-5
This book is a Caldecott Medal winner, and I can see why. The illustrations are beautiful. The story depicts a young girl going on a nighttime stroll with her father to look for owls. The colors are kind of muted, which gives a foggy feeling. The illustrator used both soft shading and lines which also contribute to this nighttime feel. I enjoyed that it was a kind of growing up story. The young girl’s brothers all had an opportunity to go owling with their father, and now it’s finally her turn. You could tell her excitement that she got to tag along through the descriptive wording. When reading with your students you could discuss the weather, how it’s a snowy night, its chilly, what kind of clothes are the characters wearing because of this. You could also use this book to discuss writing with imagery and descriptive language.
The book uses a lot of imagery and flowy poetic wording. “The moon made his face into a silver mask.” “The shadows were the blackest things I had ever seen. They stained the white snow.” “We watched silently with heat in our mouths, the heat of words we had not spoken.” The story and imagery were just as beautiful as the pictures. The story is told from the young girls’ perspective, in a vignette style.
For a lesson, since this book has such descriptive language, you could use some of the language as an example to have students create their own pictures with descriptive language. I would first discuss the different instances of descriptive writing with the students and have a discussion about different vocabulary words you can use to write with imagery.
After reading this book and discussion, students will be able to write three sentence using descriptive language to accompany a picture they drew.
Lesson Sketch: Before reading the book, tell students we are going to look for descriptive language in the book. Start reading and ask these questions.
What are the girl and her father doing? How does the girl feel about going owling? How can we tell? How does it feel outside? How did the author describe how it feels to the girl? What are the girl and her father doing to find the owl? What senses are they using? Look at the pictures, what can you see in the pictures that explain the story? How can you use descriptive language to enhance the pictures in a story?
After the first reading, ask students where they heard descriptive language throughout the story. Go back into the story and reread some lines, writing out the sentences for students to see. Ask students how they could transform a line that’s kind of bland into a sentence that is more detailed. Give some examples. Have students practice this in partners.
Finally, have students draw their own picture similar to Owl moon, and have them write three sentences using descriptive language.
Standards for 3rd Grade:
ELA.Literacy.RL. 3.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.
ELA.Literacy.RL. 3.7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting)
Other two picture books: