A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The author really digs into the world of owls and their attributes. After just the first book kids will know what each kind of feather is for, how the placement of owl ears helps them locate their prey so precisely, the attributes of various species of owls and even their species names.
Wonderful messages about friendship, overcoming great loss and oppression through the help of friends and strength of character, believing in your individuality, understanding the power of legends and story-telling, and believing that you can do something helps make it so. The second book helps the owls discover their gifts and "be all that they can be" in the service of the owl community. The third finds them sneaking out against the wishes of the older owl community, but in service of an old teacher they are trying to rescue.
Positive Role Models
Soren and Gylfie are great models of friendship and their strong but different characters complement each other well. Soren is more sensitive, a great storyteller, and fiercely protective of what is right and good. Gylfie is incredibly smart and brave. In the second book older owls mentor the younger ones and try to bring out their gifts. By the third, Soren has grown into a dedicated leader.
Violence & Scariness
Owl chicks are taken away from their parents and put through mind-erasing exercises. Two owl chicks talk at length about how losing their parents has affected them. A couple owls are killed, with some blood, but sadness and loss are described more than the act itself. A story is told of larger owls eating an owl chick. Vampire bats drain groups of owls of blood. The second book is milder, though a bobcat gets a coal dropped on his eye and his throat slit. The third book mentions owl prisoners being forced to sleep in crypts.
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"Hell" is uttered a couple times, as is "racdrops," short for "raccoon droppings" and considered offensive talk for owls. "Shut up" and "shut your beak" are common in the second book, as are "wet poop jokes" -- the owl version of potty humor (owls consider all other birds below them because of this type of excrement). "Glaux," the owl creator, is used in place of "God" for exclamations.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adult owls drink at celebrations. In book 3 one passes out drunk.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.