Tuesday, January 5, 2010

REVIEW: Crow Call

Crow CallLowry, L.  (2009).  Crow Call.  New York:  Scholastic.


Appetizer:  After her father has returned home after the end of World War II, Liz goes on an early morning hunting trip with him, nervous about being with this man who is practically a stranger.

Uncertain of how she can help, Liz's father puts her in charge of making the crow calls to attract the birds.

Considering that this book is about hunting, an activity I have zero interest...or even a negative numbered interest in, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this picturebook. Lowry's writing was poetic and on par with some of her best novels.

The realistic watercolors, done by Bagram Ibatoulline, are amazing.  I especially like the image on the second page of the narrator driving with her father.  The tree branches Liz is looking at are reflected on the windshield and hood of the car.  I was impressed by Bagram's attention to detail.

Dinner Conversation:

"It's morning, early, barely light, cold for November.  At home, in the bed next to mine, Jessica, my older sister, still sleeps.  But my bed is empty."

"I practice his name to myself, whispering it under my breath.  Daddy.  Daddy.  Saying it feels new.  The was has lasted so long.  He has been gone so long."

"I've been thinking about that, and I've decided to put in charge of the crow call.  Have you ever operated a crow call?"
I shake my head.  "No."
"It's an art," he says."

"Daddy," I ask shyly, "were you scared in the war?"
He looks ahead, up the hill, and after a moment he says, "Yes, I was scared."
"Of what?"
"Lot's of things.  Of being alone.  Of being hurt.  Of hurting someone else."

To Go with the Meal:

While set in 1945, this book has a lot of emotional significance for this age, since at heart this is a story about a girl trying to get to know her father better and adjust to having him back in her life.  After reading Crow Call, a teacher could compare the present wars to World War II the experiences soldiers have and, for children, the difficulties not only of having a parent serving abroad, but also of readjusting to his or her return.

This book can also provide representation for students who go hunting or have family members who hunt.  After hearing Crow Call they could share some of their family's hunting stories.  Or, if a teacher wants to avoid talking about hunting, after reading the book, a class could go on a nature walk or do some bird watching.

I was surprised by the way that Crow Call challenges gender expectations.  Liz wears a man's hunting shirt, she is excited to be mistaken for a boy at the diner.  I thought that was an interesting touch.

As a note, this picturebook is on the text-heavy side and would probably be best for middle elementary students, whether as an individual read or a read aloud.

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

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