Mary QuattlebaumBring a little magic to family life by transforming a Green Hour into a moon-lit one.

I had that experience recently. Doing yard work during an unusually balmy evening, my 10-year-old daughter and I lingered outdoors while the sky purpled.

The winter grass rustled, the trees creaked, a gentle wind shadow-shifted through twigs. Suddenly we could hear sounds usually lost in the hustle-bustle of bright-lit day. A new moon, slim as a fingernail, gleamed.

A winter night might be a time to go for a walk, to bring out the telescope, or to just quietly listen.

Author Jane Yolen captures this sense of night magic in Owl Moon (Philomel, 1987, ages 4 to 9). The Caldecott-winning picture book follows a girl and her pa as they trudge through a snowy landscape as “quiet as a dream” and “whiter than the milk in a cereal bowl.” Their attentive silence is finally rewarded first by a whoo-whoo-who and then by an encounter with a Great Horned Owl, which stares at them with wild, mysterious eyes.

Artist-naturalist John Schoenherr modeled the pine trees, trails and farm buildings in the illustrations after those on his own farm. And he drew upon his own experiences of owling with his kids to create the tone of hushed wonder that informs the book’s beautiful watercolors.

During this darkest time of the year, when others are hunkering down, you and your kids–like the characters in Owl Moon–might discover a world made strange and beautiful by night.

Mary Quattlebaum is the author of 15 award-winning children’s books, including Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns (Random House) and two chapter-book sequels, all set in a city community garden. Check for activities connected with Mary’s books.

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Published: January 16, 2009