Monday, November 15, 2010

Crow Call, by Lois Lowry

This beautiful, heartwarming story opens with Lizzie preparing to go crow hunting with her father, who has just returned from World War II. She feels a certain awkwardness with him at first; he has been gone a long time, and she feels as if she does not really know him anymore. The feeling is dispelled when they set off for the day, stopping first for breakfast at a local diner. Her father asks Lizzie what her favorite thing to eat is, and she says: cherry pie. He orders her two pieces and a glass of milk; it is not her usual breakfast, and she's thrilled with it.

They reach the woods where they will be hunting crows, and Lizzie, dressed in an oversize plaid hunting shirt, realizes that her father has brought his shotgun with him. He gives her a crow caller, a sort of whistle used to call crows out of their hiding places. She now understands that if she does this, the crows will probably be shot. They are eating crops, and they must be stopped.
The cold silence of the woods gives Lizzie an eerie feeling. She talks to her father about being alone, being hurt, and hurting someone or something else. What makes her very uncomfortable is the idea of hunting and killing crows.

Nevertheless, she obeys when her father instructs her to start calling the crows. They come in large numbers, filling the trees above and answering her calls to them. Lizzie has great fun running back and forth with the clever birds watching her. Finally, her father suggests that their day of calling crows is coming to an end; she is secretly pleased that he chose not to kill any of them. Hand in hand, they head for home.

This story is wonderful on many levels: re-capturing a relationship with one's father, recognizing the often harsh and difficult relationship we share with nature and its creatures, and last but not least, the challenge of managing the man -versus -nature issue: do we always have to kill to solve that kind of problem?

The illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline are beautiful. They are reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth's landscapes: beiges, browns, subtle primary colors with the black crows in sharp contrast against the sky and in the bare branches of the trees. 2009
M. Cooney

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