Harris Center Reads: Owls

January 1, 2021
A Barred Owl. (photo © Philip Brown via Unsplash)

Have a Hoot!

Welcome to Harris Center Reads — a monthly, curated list of good reads for curious naturalists of all ages! It’s hard to imagine, but in the midst of January, Great Horned Owls are already courting, nesting, and caring for the first young of a new year. In honor of life renewing in the depths of winter, we’re celebrating all things owl with a reading list inspired by these nocturnal birds of prey. Fly through the long winter nights with one of these fabulous books…

For Adults

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien. A humorous, poignant memoir of life with a Barn Owl. Biologist-turned-author Stacey O’Brien will captivate you with her observations — both scientific and personal — of Wesley the Owl, gleaned from their two decades together.

Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl by Jonathan C. Slaght. Long-listed for the National Book Award and a New York Times “Notable Book of 2020,” Owls of the Eastern Ice takes readers on an adventurous search into the far reaches of Russia for the rare and elusive Blakiston’s Fish Owl. A stunning account of an endangered bird and the tenacity of the scientists who study it.

The Hidden Lives of Owls: The Science and Spirit of Nature’s Most Elusive Birds by Leigh Calvez. Reminiscent of Sy Montgomery’s writing, this beautiful book explores the natural history of owls and the life story of the author, who clearly adores them.

Picture Books for Kids

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and John Schoenherr. A classic picture book that tells the story of a father and child out on a winter’s night, searching for owls. Yolen’s lyrical writing and Schoenherr’s soft watercolors bring this shared experience to life, making you want to grab your coat and a sweet friend and head outside to try owling on your own. Winner of the 1988 Caldecott Medal.

The Barn Owls by Tony Johnston and Deborah Kogan Ray. Sshhh, quietly come inside an old barn and meet the generations of Barn Owls that have called this place home for the last hundred years. With gorgeous watercolor illustrations and poetic text, The Barn Owls offers a wonderful glimpse into the lives of these wild creatures.

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson. Sarah, Bill, and, littlest of all, Percy are three owlets who are waiting for their mother to return to the nest. Charming artwork and simple text make this book a winner for the very youngest owl fan in your family.

For Middle School Readers

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen. A rollicking story about two mismatched kids’ attempt to save a colony of endangered owls from an encroaching pancake restaurant. As with most of Hiaasen’s books, this novel is packed with wacky characters and wild scenes in a vividly portrayed Florida landscape.

Owling: Enter the World of the Mysterious Birds of the Night by Mark Wilson. This is the Harris Center staff’s all-time favorite book on owls! Jam-packed with incredible photography by award-winning wildlife photographer and owl educator Mark Wilson, Owling offers a fascinating inside look at the wild lives of North America’s owls.

Where to Find These Books

BUY. We’d like to give a special shout-out to our local bookseller, Toadstool Bookshops in Keene and Peterborough! They’re open for in-person shopping, and they also sell online.

BORROW. In addition, many local libraries are offering curbside pickup, as well as a wide variety of eBooks and other digital options. Check with your town library for more information.