Owl Babies – Martin Waddell

POINTS: 4 out of 10.

Bechdel: 1 point
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story: 2 points.
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point.

Owl Babies is a way better “your mommy will always love you” tale than most of its kind. The three owl babies wake up to find their mommy gone, and proceed to express their nervousness about whether or not she’ll come back in a fairly realistic way. They make avowals of certainty that she will return, with mice! probably. Their actual uncertainty of this fact is left implied. When she returns, her response is essentially “Of course you knew I’d come back” like it isn’t even a real question. The effect is subtle but unmistakable- to her, there is absolutely no question.

Technically the book passes the Bechdel, because one of the owl babies is Sarah. All the characters are owls though, with Anglo-Saxon names, so no points for variety. I found it remarkably charming, personally, and C was pretty engaged. He kept stopping the story to discuss it. “Mommy, when you go away, I miss you, but I always know you’re coming back!”And then there was the moment when he said, “And if I get lost, when you find me, I’ll say ‘Mummy!'” (like the owl babies do), which gave me feels because he didn’t even question whether I’d find him.

Which really is the thing I loved about this book: the simplicity of the parent-child bond. The babies are definitely nervous and frightened, but there is no question really whether the mother owl will return. And when she does she acts as though the idea that she wouldn’t is just unthinkable (“What’s all the fuss?”). This is far more representative of the abiding love of a parent, in my opinion, than the creepy, controlling so-called ‘love’ in, say The Runaway Bunny.

What do you think of Owl Babies? Am I being too kind? What’s your favourite children’s book to deal with this theme of abiding parental love?


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