This is a beautiful book to share with young children. It would generate a great deal of discussion around the subject of fear: the kinds of things that children fear, who they turn to when they are afraid and the sorts of things that make them feel better. Owl, who is the largest of the animals in the story, takes on the traditional role of being the 'wise old owl' and as such the parental figure that the smaller animals turn to. This makes the text ideal to discuss charaterisation. What are Owl's qualities that make others turn to him for comfort? What evidence is there in the story to support the children's views?
For children in year 2, who need to develop their vocabulary and use a variety of synonyms for 'said', the text proves to be a good model of how to do this. Teachers need to consider with the children why Freedman has chosen to use the variety of words for 'said' that she does. What additional information do these choices give the reader. For children in year 3, it would be interesting to 'collect' the different words and then categorise them. Which synonyms for 'said' does Freedman use to indicate fear? 'gulped', 'trembled', 'shivered' etc. How might you categorise the other synonyms?
In terms of scene setting, Freedman creates the atmosphere of the storm through the use of onomatopoeia: crash, bang, howl, thump. The atmosphere of the story is further enhanced by Russell Julian's illustrations. The darkness that envelops owl, literally and metaphorically as he pretends not to be at home when he hears the tappity-tap tap, how the peephole in Owl's door enlarges the eye when rabbit looks in and reduces the size of the Monster when the three of them look out, the eeriness of the shadows as we peer through Owl's window. The black silhouetted image which contains the words 'The Monster of the Woods' depicts how through fear we tend to make things much bigger than they are in reality. Note the size of the spider and the unidentifiable fronds in comparison with the three friends. The images of the woods in the end papers could provide a stimulus for some descriptive writing. How could the children describe the trees to create that same sense of eeriness?
A picture book which could be read and enjoyed by children of all ages and in terms of the classroom can be used in a variety of ways to develop children's reading and writing.
Publication Date: 2009