watercolor by Chana de Mauro

Have you ever heard a barred owl’s distinctive, 8-part, hooted call – “Who- cooks-for-Yoouuu? Who-cooks-for-youall?” The eerie song echoes through the Iowa woods – from city parks to remote timberlands.

But it’s far easier to HEAR barred owls than to SEE the reclusive birds, who hunt primarily at night, and may spend daylight hours sitting motionless in a tree, camouflaged by their gray plumage and bar-like feather patterns.

Mary Runkel and Chana de Moura have capitalized on the mysteries of owls to publish “A Hoot in the Storm,” a fanciful, delightfully illustrated tale of an owlet finding her wings. With patient encouragement from Gram Owl, Little Hoot leaves home and learns that storms are not so scary, after all.

Mary Runkel, granddaughter of the late Iowa naturalist Sylvan T. Runkel, dedicates the book to Sylvan’s wife, “Grandma Bernie, possibly the most patient woman in the world.” Mary Runkel, describing the book as “a woman-empowerment project,” also thanks “My Mama, Jolene” for supporting “all of my crazy endeavors.”

Chana de Moura’s captivating watercolors set the mood for a story of exploration and wonder by Little Hoot, who like Gram Owl, is even more of a “night owl” than your stereotypical real owl. de Moura immerses Little Hoot in world of forests, thickets and hills filled with other “citizens of the natural world,” (as Grandpa Sylvan would say!)

When Little Hoot eventually grows too large for her own nest hole, she must search for a new home – even though she misses Gram Owl’s cuddles and coos and advice on secret hunting spots. But the spiritual bond remains strong, giving Little Hoot the courage to brave a fierce storm.

Mary Runkel said the inspiration for the story came when she left her native Des Moines and began missing her regular visits with Grandma Bernie. Mary and Bernie, who are both human night owls, began texting each other – often late at night. When Bernie joked “Hoot! Go to bed, night owl!” the pair envisioned themselves as Little Hoot and Gram. And their relationship found its way into Mary’s book.

“The characters are barred owls,” Mary said. “If you look closely, you might see oak trees, flowers and animals that are also native to the state. We kept it as accurate as we could, while still allowing Chana to work her magic.”

Mary attended Iowa State University, worked for several years in land conservation with the Iowa Natural heritage Foundation, and now lives in Colorado, where she’s director at an education non-profit. She mintains her Runkel roots and love of nature.

Chana de Moura, a native of Brazil, is an illustrator and art educator who strives for a relationship with natural spaces, biodiversity, and “cosmovisions.” Her work explores subjects such as science, ecology, and spirituality.

Cost of book is $14, plus tax and postage. To order, go to Larry’s Online Store

 

 

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