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The Picture Book Buzz

Whoo-ku Haiku - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

The subject of this week's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is near and dear to my heart.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love animals and nature. And that I have a particular fondness for birds. I have been a bird watcher and amateur scientist, for more years than I care to acknowledge; actively participating in The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Feeder Watch citizen science project and the Great Backyard Bird Count. So, it is no surprise that I adore Maria Gianferrari's Hawk Rising (2018).

I also have a very deep love for Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends. So, it should be no surprise that I fell in love with Jonathan Voss' Brave Enough for Two (2018) and Imagine That (2019). These stories feel like the female version (Olive & Hoot) of Christopher Robin & Pooh. And Jonathan's illustrations have such a dreamy, magical, luminescence to them.

So, when these two announced a collaboration, in a story about great horned owls, I couldn't wait! This book is everything I anticipated and so much more.

Whoo-Ku Haiku

Author: Maria Gianferrari

Illustrator: Jonathan Voss

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (2020)

Ages: 4-8



Poetry, nature, great horned owls, and STEAM.

Synopsis (from the publisher):

Stunning illustrations and gorgeous haikus lead young readers through the dramatic life cycle of one of America’s most beloved wild animals. Pip. Pip. Pip. Poking A hole. Cracking. Cracking. Out Pecks the white owlet.

Watch as a pair of great horned owlets peep and squeak in their feathered nest. Mama and Papa hunt for food and fend off predators while the chicks grow strong enough to hop and flap between the branches of their tree, then leap and fly away, ready to explore the wild world around them. In this thrilling nonfiction picture book, a combination of haiku and dazzling illustration shows readers the fierce majesty of one of North America's most ubiquitous wild animals.

Opening Lines:

A great horned owl pair

Finds squirrel's nest of oak leaves

Perched high in a pine.

Papa adds birch bark

Nest blanketed with feathers

Snow sleeps on the ground.

What I loved about this book:

A big fan of poetry, it was fun to see Maria Gianferrari tell the nonfiction life cycle of the great horned owl through haiku. Despite being constrained to tight, sparse text, the book masterfully follows a pair of great horned owls as they choose a nest and battle crows, hawks, and a fox to raise their two owlets. Talk about making every word count!

Text © Maria Gianferrari, 2020. Image © Jonathan Voss, 2020

The book is both endearing (honestly who can resist these adorable, fluffy little owlets) and accurately realistic. It's full of tender, close moments and dangerous, dramatic action. Although the parents are seen as protectors and hunters (bringing bugs and skunks to the nest), the book primarily focuses on the downy owlets and their development.

Text © Maria Gianferrari, 2020. Image © Jonathan Voss, 2020

The illustrations are luminous and vividly detailed in primarily the dappled browns and greens of a forest. Interspersed throughout the double-page spreads, Jonathan Voss employs vignettes, or panels, to highlight and focus on the small moments, high in the trees, that the owl family experiences. Such as their reactions to loss of an egg or Mama sheltering owlets from a storm.

Text © Maria Gianferrari, 2020. Image © Jonathan Voss, 2020

In addition to the detailed information in the back matter, Maria Gianferrari includes fun, interactive resources to encourage her reader's further discovery of owls, and perhaps other birds. This is a great mentor text for creating narrative nonfiction. As well as a great introduction to haiku, an owl's life cycle, and the forest ecosystem. A wonderful addition to any library and STEM/STEAM curriculum. One that I hope will encourage more interest in caring about the survival of these owls and all the remarkable birds around the world.


- compare the haiku in Read H is for Haiku by Sydell Rosenberg, take a look at for some ideas and instructions, and then try to write your own haiku.

- research more about the great horned owl, listen to their calls ( Do they live near you? If not, what owls do? What do their calls sound like?

- make a great horned owl paper bag puppet (

If you missed the interview of Maria Gianferrari and Jonathan Voss on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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