Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Jean Jullien.
Taylor, Sean and Jean Jullien, illustr. and Rick Adamson, narr. Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2014.
I borrowed the e-book version of Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise via the library borrowing app, Libby. I was intrigued and (pleasantly!?) surprised to find that it is narrated with audio! This is the first time I have experienced a picture book with audio as an e-book. The pages turn themselves, counting down three seconds until readers have had time to look at the illustrations. Because you are looking at only half of the page spread at a time, at least on the mobile version, this renders the comedic timing only ever so slightly out of whack. The story follows a goofy owl determined to catch some prey as food and profess himself as a scary predator (though he is all but in this story). Despite his creative and silly disguises (from carrot to ornamental bird bath), he keeps being foiled, giving readers the opportunity to follow the pattern of the storyline and make predictions. Each time he is out of luck however, the owl persists, proclaiming “nevermind. I am Hoot Owl! I am hungry! (and hungrier and hungrier) And here I come!” Readers and listeners could likely chime in with the chorus on a second read. The book itself has won a couple of awards and, an example of transmedia, was even transformed into a show for children, adapted using puppets, animation, and costume changes around theaters across the UK.
The illustrations are simply drawn digital renderings, with blocks of color outlined in thick black strokes. Bright colors and high contrast will keep kids eyes on the pages as the narrator reads the story. The narrator’s deep voice perfectly conveys the owl’s supposed bravado and kids will revel in the subtle humor of the entire composition. At it’s core, this is a cute and funny story perfectly meeting its purpose of making children laugh at the main character’s dilemma and curious attempts to remedy.
This story is a great read for around Halloween, without being an overt Halloween narrative – ( it is good for classrooms with students who don’t celebrate), students can discuss disguises and what makes things scary or not. Students could invent their own disguises, or write a story about another animal trying to disguise themself as they look for lunch.