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The Children's Bookshelf: The Little Owl in the Big Tree, A Christmas Story - December 13, 2021

The Little Owl and the Big Tree: A Christmas Story written touchingly by Jonah Winter and illustrated with beautiful colors and details by Jeanette Winter is about one of the smallest owls in the world, the Northern Saw-whet Owl.

This true story begins as the reader meets a tiny owl who lives in a spruce tree. Next the reader sees a huge truck making its way north to find a large Christmas tree. The workers locate a perfect tree. However, they don’t know this tree is also the home to a little owl. On this day the owl wakes up frightened. Voices of men are shouting, saws are sawing and her tree is falling!

One of the workers who is dragging the tree onto the long truck, is surprised to see the little owl peeking at him from a tree hole. This illustration gives the reader an idea of just how small the owl is. When one of the workers picks her up the owl barely fits in one hand.

All 28 pictures are rendered beautifully in the illustrator’s iconic style. The very first illustration of the little owl looking straight at the reader is captivating.

The verbal and visual storylines walk hand in hand throughout this tender picture book. The owl, named Rockefeller by the media, is placed in a nearby wildlife rescue center to recover before being released into the wild. The seventy-five-foot spruce is beautifully decorated and placed in New York City’s Rockefeller Center.

The Little Owl and The Big Tree: A Christmas Story written by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Jeanette Winter is a sweet story designed for readers 4-8 years of age (Beach Lane Books/ Simon and Schuster, 2021).

The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and the Activity Questions can be found at Children’s Bookshelf dot org.

Activity Questions for The Little Owl and the Big Tree: a Christmas Story

The little owl in this story is a Northern Saw-whet Owl. They make a clear tooting sound. If you go on the world wide web you can hear their tooting whistle as well as read further about their nocturnal style of living. (Parents and grandparents are encouraged to help). Try being one of these tiny owls by making your body very small and start tooting!

There are 28 wonderful illustrations in this book. Which is your favorite? Why? If you were to add one more illustration to this book what would it be? With a large pad and colorful pencils draw a picture of your idea. Give your picture a name.

Jeanette Winter and Jonah Winter are mother and son. They have produced fine books together and alone. The next time you visit your local library locate and read Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter and The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter. Good reading!

Sue Ann Martin is professor emerita of Communication and Dramatic Arts and the founding and past Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She first became interested in children’s literature when she wrote her PhD thesis on the oral characteristics of the Caldecott Award-winning children’s books. Her PhD is in Speech and Interpretation with a cognate in Early Childhood Education. She went on to review children’s books for the Detroit Free Press, write three popular resource books for teachers regarding children’s books and the creative process. She also reviewed newly-published books for Arts Almanac specials on WCMU Public Radio. Her 2002 children’s books special for WCMU won a Merit Award in Special Interest Programming from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.