Crow Call is Lois Lowry’s first ever picture book. Hard to believe that she’s never ventured into picture books, given that Ms. Lowry has been writing for a long time, and has written to so much acclaim. Number the Stars is among my favourite books ever, and I know many children who would say the same. So I was expected something special in Crow Call, something thoughtful and exquisitely written. Lowry’s first picture book delivers, and deserves a place alongside titles by picture book masters such as Eve Bunting, Cynthia Rylant and Sarah Stewart.
Crow Call is based on a small moment from Lowry’s childhood, a day she spent with her father just after he returned from WWII. There’s a photograph of Lowry as a little girl on the final page of the book. She’s dressed in a hugely oversized plaid shirt, just like the child in her story. The little girl heads out on a hunting trip with her father and the two spend the day together for the first time in a long while.
This is a quiet study of a relationship between a girl and her father, at a moment when both are trying to span the distance created between them after a long absence. If you’re a teacher, this book is made for showing kids what it means to zero in on a small moment, and write that moment with as much detail and emotional richness as possible. Lowry’s words glow: “Grass, frozen after its summer softness, crunches under our feet; the air is sharp and supremely clear, free from the floating pollens of summer, and our words seem etched and breakable on the brittle stillness. I feel the smooth wood of the crow call in my pocket, moving my fingers against it for warmth, memorizing its ridges and shape.” Sigh. There’s nothing fancy or overwrought here. It’s just exactly the right words put just the right way. It’s understated and yet impressive. Speaking of impressive, illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline has created some stunning artwork for Lowry’s story. The muted tones suggest the past, as well as the spirit of the late fall setting. There is one gorgeous double page spread that made my jaw drop. Lois has posted a picture of it at her blog – take a look. Even more impressive in living colour, I assure you. By the way, Lois’s blog is lovely, a real glimpse into her life and her art. Go hang out with her for a while, and go get your own copy of Crow Call, sure to be as much a classic as any other Lowry title.
Crow Call is published by Scholastic Press and is available now.