A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the first three books in this bestselling series are the basis of a September 2010 movie called Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'hoole. The first (and best) book contains the most violence and sadness -- young owls are snatched away from their parents and brainwashed. Some older owls are killed and young owls who escape them try to find their parents and discover they are probably dead. In one scene, vampire bats prey on imprisoned owls. The other two books focus more on young owl training and the building of friendships with some scenes in forest fires and a climatic battle with fire and specialized battle claws used as weapons. Wonderful messages of friendship, leadership, and believing in yourself, and using your gifts for good are weaved through the series.
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What's the story?
When word gets out around the forest that owl chicks and eggs are being snatched, Soren's barn owl parents are worried. Soren's sister is recently hatched and his older brother is still not ready for flight. And then the worst happens -- Soren is flown to St. Aggie's, a home for "orphans" that wipes out their individuality with the power of the full moon -- a process called "moonblinking" -- and prepares them for life in service to tyranical owls bent on, what else, but domination over all owl kingdoms. Soren finds an ally just in time -- a highly intelligent elf owl named Gylfie -- and during each moonblinking they tell legends of the hero owls of Ga'hoole to keep them sane. All the while they're hatching a plan to learn how to fly, to save themselves and tell the owl kingdoms about the horrors of St. Aggie's. They think the key is finding the great Ga'hoole tree, where they hope the legends of these owls and their great deeds are indeed true.
Is it any good?
A band of four forms in the series' riveting opener: the deep-thinker Soren, intelligent Gylfie, worldly Twilight, and the burrow owl Digger. Soren and Gylfie are the most developed characters so far and already they seem worth the long haul -- this series has 15 books in all. The story of their escape is as riveting as their friendship is touching. There's also some sadness as these chicks realize their families' fates, and it's all handled with real sensitivity.
In Book 2, the four friends make it to the Great Ga'Hoole Tree and are taught to use their skills to protect the owl community. Watching the owls train sets up the storyline well for future adventures, but gives the book an episodic feel and keeps the suspense from building -- this is not the suspenseful page-turner the first one is. However friendship and following one's heart -- um, gizzard -- are still strong themes.
In Book 3, Soren's favorite teacher is missing and the young band of owls tries to piece together clues to bring him back to the Great Ga'Hoole Tree. It's never clear why this capable band of owls needs to sneak away from their adult mentors to go on their quest, and conclusions about the mysterious powers the enemies wield aren't well-developed. But some big truths are revealed -- like who Metal Beak is -- and Soren, as leader, becomes an even more compelling character.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about friendship and diversity. Why do Soren, Gylfie, Twilight, and Digger make a good band of loyal friends? What do they offer one another?
Families can also talk about what it means to Soren to "feel things in his gizzard." Do you ever get an immediate good or bad feeling about something? Are you usually right?
Families can also talk about leadership. By the end of book three Soren knows in his "gizzard" that he is a born leader and so do his friends. What qualities make him a good leader?
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