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Therapeutic book review: Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

Therapeutic book review: Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

Lenka and I thought that you might enjoy it if we did a therapeutic book review every now and again! The first book that we’ve chosen to review, is Owl Babies by Martin Waddell. The book has beautifully detailed illustrations by Patrick Benson, and was first published in 1992.

Owl Babies is a story that could help a child who might be struggling with feelings of separation anxiety.

The story in a nutshell

Three baby owls wake up one evening to find that their mother has left their nest to go hunting. Each of the three owlets have a different personality, and way of coping with mommy’s absence. The story shows these different ways of coping, such as:

  • thinking about possible explanations for mommy’s absence,
  • worrying about mommy’s safety,
  • and huddling together, until finally mommy comes back.

In the end the owl mother returns and reassures her babies that she will always return. 

How the story might help a child

This story might be comforting when a little one has to cope with one of the following scenarios:

  • A parent who needs to go away for a while
  • Going to school for the first time 
  • Sleeping over at a grandparent’s house

Owl Babies could be helpful for any situation where a child will be separated from a caregiver, and needs to be reassured that the caregiver will return.

What I thought…

I absolutely love the illustrations, and I think that the book is beautiful and the characters charming and easy to identify with. The detailed pen and ink illustrations by Patrick Benson is alive with detail. The style is perfect for the fluffy little owlets.

I like the repetition in the story and how each little character’s personality is evident in the way they speak. I think it would be easy for a child to identify with one or more of these baby owls.

My only concern is that the book is very dark in colour, and that very small children might find the pictures scary for this reason. 

What Lenka thought…

I loved the fact that the older owl siblings do what older toddlers naturally do for self-regulation – they verbalize internal processes, such as positive self-talk about their mother probably coming back. They also verbalize some fears, and anxieties, which might be wonderful for little ones to identify with, and to normalize these feelings.

The little owls also make use of (and model) other positive coping skills, such as sticking and huddling with their siblings (for readers this could also be friends, teachers, or other loved ones) in their mother’s absence, for comfort and reassurance. This makes for a lovely point of discussion when reading the story to children, and helping them to identify their safe persons for comfort and reassurance.

I appreciated the simple, yet elegant writing style and dialogue, as it is accessible for little ones. However, I have to agree with Liesl that the rather darker illustration style might be somewhat daunting for younger children, even though it ties in very nicely with the subject matter and characters.

Further thoughts about separation anxiety

If you need more advice, you may also be interested in Lenka’s article about dealing with separation anxiety in young children

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