When I asked my niece what she wanted for her birthday she said, “I love anything to do with owls.” Then a television commercial pointed me toward the animated movie Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole.
Hmm, I thought. Where there’s a movie there’s often a book. So I did a search on the County of Los Angeles Public Library website (www.colapublib.org/), and sure enough there’s not just one book but a series of 15!
My niece’s book report is still pending, but here’s mine.
Guardians of Ga’Hoole: The Capture is an odd mix of fantasy/adventure and natural history. In the “About The Author” section it says that Kathryn Lasky did extensive research on owls with the idea of writing a non-fiction book, but decided to go the fiction route instead.
Her research shows at the beginning, which seems true to nature except for the talking animals. Two-week-old barn owl, Soren, is nested high in a fir tree watching his baby sister hatch. Her egg tooth pokes a hole in the shell and after a while a slimy blob with huge bulging eyes emerges.
Meanwhile Soren’s older brother is starting to branch, that is hop from branch to branch as practice for flying. The parents bring the youngest birds bugs, and the older ones meat, boneless at first and then bones-in.
It all seems so right, except maybe the blind nest snake that apparently keeps the nest clean of maggots and other vermin. I don’t think real owls keep nest snakes.
The book soars off into high fantasy when Soren is abducted by a couple of nasty chick-snatching owls, and taken to St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls.
It’s obvious from the beginning that the owls running St. Aegolius are evil and up to no good. For one thing, Soren knows he’s not an orphan! Hi was chick-napped! But there’s also the metal battle claws that warrior owls wear, and the strange metal flecks they are forced to search for in regurgitated owl pellets.
Soren meets little Gylfie, an elf owl, and the two of them learn not to ask questions, which are forbidden, and figure out how to avoid the brainwashing techniques that have made all the other owlets behave like obedient robots.
The two friends decide to escape as soon as they are fully fledged. (And here we learn about different feather types, like the ones that barn owls have to help them fly silently.)
As much as I enjoyed learning about owls, and as much as I usually like fantasy, I was not totally pulled into this book or its characters. Perhaps I just expected too much after seeing that 126 Amazon.com readers had given it an average of 4.5 stars out of 5, not to mention that a movie had been made!
But check it out yourself and make up your own mind. The Guardians is suggested for grades 4-8.