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by Betty Bates & illustrated by Leslie Morrill

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: June 15th, 1991
ISBN: 0-8234-0868-X
Publisher: Holiday House

 Brad, who lives with his widowed mother on Gramps's midwestern farm, does some significant maturing during the months he observes a pair of barn owls raise their young. Apparently made trusting by Brad's gifts of dead crickets, the owls accept his visits up the hayloft ladder to look at their nest, and later at the owlets. Meanwhile, Brad worries about Cole, Mom's new boyfriend: he enjoys Cole's music but deplores his reckless propensity to shoot at anything that moves (at one point, Cole actually shoots himself in the foot). Brad also makes friends with a girl in his class, gradually coming to accept her embarrassing tendency to talk openly of subjects like affection. The strengths here are the zippy dialogue, Brad's espousal of the owls' cause (he learns their real importance to the economy as pest controllers), and the sobering picture of thoughtless shooting, culminating in the death of the female owl. Unfortunately, weak characterization undermines the story. Cole, especially, except for his banjo and his gun, is an unknown; and since no adequate reason for Mom's (and Brad's) fondness for him is shown, their mixed response to his behavior is insufficiently motivated. Still, an easily read story with appealing b&w illustrations and some solid values. (Fiction. 8-12)