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The Children's Bookshelf: A Parliament of Owls - September 18, 2022

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A Parliament of Owls written by Devin Scillian and illustrated by Sam Caldwell is filled with fun about the names of animals when they gather in a group. There are a few group names that some children may have heard before such as a pride of lions and a gaggle of geese, however, most of the 35 or so group names represented in this book will be new to their ears.

A flutter of butterflies, a barrel of monkeys, and a caravan of camels capture the movement of these animals. A tower of giraffes and a bloat of hippopotamuses cleverly relate to the physical look of these animals.

My favorite group name is a “prickle” of porcupines. Even the illustration gives me an ouch! Throughout the book the Illustrator uses the body shapes and facial expressions of each animal group along with vivid colors to pull the reader into the fun!

The book’s title, A Parliament of Owls, is well chosen. The owls arrive first, take their orderly position on the tree, look straight forward and quietly wait to begin the work of the parliament. They wear their wisdom well.

Author Devin Scillian crafts the story with delightful descriptions that end in a rhyme. “A charm of hummingbirds darted to the flowers. A flutter of butterflies flew. And things got very crowded indeed when a memory of elephants came through.”

A Parliament of Owls written by Devin Scillian and illustrated by Sam Caldwell is fun-filled. There is also a busy little journalist fella who captures pictures of the animals on his trusty camera throughout the book. Children 4-8 will especially enjoy the group family photo at the end that spreads across two colorful pages (Sleeping Bear Press, 2022).

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 A Parliament of Owls

Seek and find the following animals as they are shown in the illustration where they have gathered as the camera person is arranging a family photograph from a ladder: pandas, mice, crabs, peacocks, bats, rattlesnakes, porcupines, monkeys, tigers, eagles, and owls.

Play a movement game. Move across the floor like you think each of these animals would move: stand very tall with your neck stretched high as you move across the floor like one of the tower of giraffes, use your hands and fingers to lightly flutter quickly like a butterfly, now be part of a troop of gorillas by standing big and solid and walking with huge heavy steps and finally, make your body small and quickly moving here and there as you become part of the mischief of mice group. You can also add vocal sounds that match your movements.

If you were to arrange a family photo session who would be there and what would they be wearing? Think about this and make a possible list of family members. Then draw a picture of your family photo. Have fun!

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.