I was absolutely delighted to receive Owl Bat Bat Owl as it’s a picture book without words and we use these quite heavily in our household. They provide inspiration for stories, allow children to think out loud and I find that it really helps build comprehension from a young age. Whats more, they’re accessible for even the youngest little readers meaning that these sort of books have a value and use from age 1 all the way through to 8 or nine years old.
Owl Bat Bat Owl is all about difference, or in fact how we are all very similar. It will be an essential book for any nursery or reception class and is a great one to have at home to help talk through those little issues that can crop up when the children are little and cant quite understand that others are different to them. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to ask author Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick for a guest blog for my readers:
The loveliest thing about watching children read my new book, Owl Bat Bat Owl, is hearing how they begin with a few quiet giggles and soon progress to snorts, hoots and guffaws. Laughter is an excellent soundtrack for a wordless book!
The inspiration for the book was a Christmas card my husband made depicting a row of rather smug owls sitting along a narrow branch.
One day I looked at it and thought, ‘wouldn’t those owls get a shock if some other animal moved in on their branch?’ The idea rolled from there and I quickly realised I was writing about refugees, fear and the journey to friendship and acceptance.
There’s a history of emigration in Ireland – two million people fled starvation during the Great Famine (1845-1850), and afterwards emigration became a cultural norm. During the nineteen sixties, seventies and eighties the first question for everyone emerging from school and college was, ‘do I stay or do I go?’ As a result of our tendency to wander, huge numbers of people around the globe claim Irish heritage.
Here on the Auld Sod we have always prided ourselves on the welcome we extend to strangers, but when migration reversed in the nineties and more people were coming into Ireland then out, we quickly located the dark outer edges of our ability to extend a decent Céad Mile Fáilte (a hundred thousand welcomes). Immigration was, literally, foreign to us. We struggled to adjust and accommodate. Time, proximity and a brief flirtation with boom times helped us get over ourselves, and Ireland is all the better for its new citizens and the diversity they bring.
But now, like the rest of Europe, the UK, Australia and the USA, we are coiling in on ourselves again and working to keep people out at the very time so many are desperately fleeing war, poverty and bleak futures. Given our history, shouldn’t we have more empathy? Isn’t it baffling that countries like Australia and the USA are so protectionist when their populations are mostly descended from immigrants? Isn’t it ironic that countries like France and the UK who once travelled the globe building empires have decided everyone else should stay home and make do? It seems the default human condition is to fear change and protect what you have – wall-building is a European trait.
Owl Bat Bat Owl is a gentle book and funny with it, but at its heart it’s about developing empathy. The little owls are motivated by fear and prejudice. Accepting the bat family onto their branch requires compromise and generosity, and at first the owls cannot rise to the occasion.
Do small children understand what the book is about?
Yes. They don’t use words like prejudice and intolerance to describe it but they understand its essence. They smile and nod knowingly when the babies try to make friends despite parental disapproval.
They understand that the owls and bats are trying to keep away from each other.‘I think they are practising segregation,’ was the response of one boy viewing the image below.
And kids understand that the shared peril of falling off the branch changes everything…
… and ultimately brings the families together.
Yes. Through all the snorts and laughter, the kids DO get it!
You can find out more about Marie-Louise and her books on her wonderful website: www.marielouisefitzpatrick.com