I have a thing for owls. When people ask what animal I relate to, I think of an owl – all-seeing and a wicked hunter (of dirt and missing things). Add to that the amazing old-fashioned illustrations and you couldn’t stop me from picking up this gem at the op-shop if you chucked Chris Hemsworth at me. Ok maybe you could stop me if you did that.
Anyhoo, Jim Slater’s Grasshopper and the Unwise Owl is what I would classify as a children’s novelette. I picked it up at an Elizabeth’s Secondhand Bookstore. It’s got a full story arc but is short and concise. Great to finish in a few bedtime reading sessions.
Grasshopper, aka Graham Hooper, receives some magic sweets from his Uncle Rudolf for his ninth birthday. He was told they would help him talk to animals, but his Uncle forgot to mention a tiny detail (sorry mum pun) – the sweets shrink him to about six centimetres tall. On his way to helping his mum foil the gruesome Mr Groll, he meets Jacob, whose problem is that he does NOT know everything as an owl is supposed to. They help each other out and it ends as a children’s book should, with a happy ending.
I like how packed it is with little tidbits like the random facts Jacob asks Grasshopper to look up and that Grasshopper’s dad has died, leaving his mum to raise him. Published in 1979 and illustrated brilliantly by the award-winning late Babette Cole, it brings me right back to my childhood. Slightly more innocent than Dahl but a little more tricksy than Blyton with such a lovely, retro style of writing. Yet simple enough that my 8-year-old can easily read it herself.