As we celebrate Girl Power and Women’s Wiles until the first week of May, we try as much as we can to find books that fit with our theme. Discovering Lois Lowry’s Crow Call as illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline in the library has indeed been a gift. Nonfiction Monday this week is hosted by EMU’s Debuts.
A Snapshot of Lois Lowry’s Life as a Little Girl. In the brief Author’s Note found at the very end of the book, Lois Lowry noted that:
“The details of this story are true. They happened in 1945, to me and my father. But parents and children groping toward understanding each other – that happens to everyone. And so this story is not really just my story, but everyone’s.”
I love these little fragments of thought immortalized through beautiful illustrations and richly-textured words that weave its way into one’s heart. I have to confess though (in the interest of full-disclosure) that I am a huge Lois Lowry fan. I think I have mentioned several times that the name of our blog GatheringBooks is roughly based on Lois Lowry’s Gathering Blue – part of The Giver series. And while there are some who may have found the language of this picture book not quite in keeping with that of ten year old Lizzy (as the narrative is written in the first-person), I honestly did not mind so much. Since my field is in gifted and talented education, I was privileged enough to have met so many young girls who are able to describe their emotions and thoughts with great clarity and luminosity. Finding this picture book with such strikingly-beautiful illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline was food for my soul.
Distances traveled through Words and Halting Gestures. Crow Call is the story of young Lizzy who is spending her early morning with a hunter, a man she barely knows.
I sit shyly in the front seat of the car next to the stranger who is my father, my legs pulled up under the too-large wool shirt I am wearing.
I practice his name to myself, whispering it under my breath. Daddy. Daddy. Saying it feels new. The war has lasted so long. He has been gone so long. Finally I look over at him timidly and speak aloud.
It speaks of the uncertain tiptoes and cute little dances one does with a whole new entity that is supposed to be an important part of one’s life. I was also reminded of another picture book that I have just recently reviewed for our Black History Month Special: Jacqueline Woodson’s Coming On Home Soon which also speaks about the uncertainties that war brings to families as well as the measured distance between one’s heart and another’s.
I also felt that Lizzie has demonstrated unusual courage as she goes with her father to hunt birds. While she admits to being scared, she was able to go beyond her fears… of guns and crows, of the forest as she walks in front of a man with a gun (a hunter!), and of being with someone unfamiliar to her yet whose approval she yearns for – unspoken yet keenly sensed in the tentative ways they speak to each other. As Lizzie is given the all-important task of blowing the crow call as her father prepares to hunt down the black birds that destroy their crops, she feels uncertain and scared of disappointing this stranger:
“Okay, Lizzie,” says my father, “this is a good place. You can do the crow call now.”
I see no crows. For a moment, the fear of disappointing him struggles with my desire to blow into the smooth, polished tip of the crow call. But I see that he’s waiting, and I take it from my pocket, hold it against my lips, and blow softly.
These gentle, quarter-inched, unsettled – yet highly thoughtful – gestures are what captured my poetic sensibilities as the lyrical prose of Lowry blends seamlessly with Ibatoulline’s artwork. And through three slices of cherry pie, a silly giraffe call, and disgruntled black crows covering the morning skies, the little girl closed the distance between her father and herself by simply reaching over and taking her father’s hand. While this gesture may have been done hundreds of times prior to this singular event, the moment in the woods – both disconcerting and exhilarating – narrowed that gaping distance between them – inch by little inch.
Little Girls, the Color Pink, and a Plaid Hunting Shirt. One other thing that I enjoyed in this book is Lizzy’s rainbow plaid shirt:
I had lingered in front of Kronenberg’s window every chance I had since the hunting shirts had appeared.
My sister had rolled her eyes in disdain. “Daddy,” she pointed out to him as we entered Kronenberg’s, “that’s a man’s shirt.”
The salesman had smiled and said dubiously, “I don’t quite think…”
“You know, Lizzie,” my father had said to me as the salesman wrapped the shirt, “buying this shirt is probably a very practical thing to do. You will never ever outgrow this shirt.”
Another cute scene from the book is the waitress in the diner [where they had their breakfast] mistaking Lizzie for a boy with her rainbow plaid shirt.
My father orders coffee for himself. The waitress asks, “What about your boy? What does he want?”
My father winks at me, and I hope that my pigtails will stay hidden inside the plaid wool collar. Holding my head very still, I look at the menu.
A huge part of our socialization practices indicate this marked gender-segregation when it comes to outfits, games, toys, and colors (pink for girls, blue for boys). Being the mother of a ten year old girl, we made sure that she was given toys (be it trucks, cars, or dolls) and she was taught early on that they were for children – not just for girls or just for boys. It is the same thing with her clothes – we encourage her to pick out clothes that make her comfortable – and not simply the pink frills that she appeared to detest. While she did receive quite a bit of flak previously from other classmates who adhere strictly to the pink Barbie Doll routine – she was able to find like-minded girls with spunk and steam and rock star qualities. 🙂
About the Author and Illustrator (as taken from the book jacket).
Lois Lowry has written many books beloved by children and adults alike. From the popular Anastasia Krupnik series to her trilogy The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger, her books have garnered countless honors and awards. A two-time recipient of the Newbery Medal for her novels Number the Stars and The Giver, Lois Lowry conveys through her writing her passionate awareness of caring for one another in a complex world. Ms. Lowry lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Bagram Ibatoulline is the illustrator of many acclaimed books for young readers, among them Secrets of the Sphinx by James Cross Giblin, Marco Polo by Russell Friedman, and the best selling novel The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. Born in Russia, Mr. Ibatoulline now lives in Gouldsboro, Pennsylvania.
Crow Call by Lois Lowry and Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. Scholastic Press, New York, 2009. Book borrowed from the community library. Book photos were taken by me.
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