The Owl and the Woodpecker, by Brian Wildsmith. New York: Oxford University Press. Pages unnumbered. $9.95. Ages 3-5. Brian Wildsmith gives young readers another hugely colorful and winning story about a hard-won friendship that has tender lessons for young children beginning to establish friendships of their own. The author cleverly uses animals to portray a whole spectrum of human emotions and situations that perceptively mirror the dilemmas of a child's first interactions with his or her peers.
The inherent difficulties in being different from someone and the polarization that often results is the sort of ``human'' predicament that underlies the story line. The woodpecker works all day and likes to sleep all night; the owl works all night and needs to sleep all day. When the owl screeches at the woodpecker to stop his noisy tapping, the woodpecker loses his temper and ``animals for miles around came running to see what was the matter.'' Battle lines are drawn and an amusing forest dialogue takes place. Communication between the two estranged parties becomes a civil necessity!
Young children will be thoroughly enveloped in this dramatically tense and emotionally rewarding book. They will empathize with its characters and grasp the sometimes elusive truth that we must do more than just tolerate one another. There are, in fact, very good reasons for allowing one another's differences in the most respectful and compassionate ways.
Darian J. Scott is an elementary school teacher.