CM . . . . Volume XX Number 8 . . . . October 25, 2013
In He Who Flies by Night: The Story of Grey Owl, author Lori Punshon shares the stories she heard about her great-grandfather, Grey Owl. The book begins with Grey Owl sitting in a school room and telling children his life story. He begins with his childhood in England and his longing to journey to Canada. When he finally reaches Canada, he marries an Ojibwa woman who gives him the name Grey Owl. Initially Grey Owl works as a trapper, but after "mothering" two orphan baby beavers, McGinnis and McGinty, Grey Owl rejects the life of a trapper, focussing on the creation of animal sanctuaries and establishing the Society of the Beaver People. Grey Owl discovers a series of wild friends. As his work with wild life progresses, the Canadian government makes a film about his relationship with beavers. Concluding the book, Grey Owl bids goodbye to the school children he is visiting.
To accompany the story, illustrator Mike Keepness composes two-page colour spreads to mirror the text. His illustrations layer grainy textures, highlighting the playfulness of Grey Owl's forest friends. In addition, Keepness consistently places an owl in each illustration, offering a fun hide-and-seek component to the book.
While the concept of this book is intriguing, some components lacked polish. The text is unevenly distributed across pages. At times, the storyline's chronological approach seems more suited to a timeline than a narrative arc, and the artistic expression lacks the dynamism to spur the plot forward. Despite this, I appreciate the ambition to create a story to share Grey Owl's inspiring work with future generations.
Rachel Yaroshuk is an Auxiliary Librarian for the North Vancouver District Public Library.
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