Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Guardians of Ga'hoole

"Mainstream Author" highlights, as well as our "Mainstream" reviews are not necessarily recommendations for Christian families. Rather, as parents we recognize that many kids will read such books, with or without parental permission. Our goal is to help parents prepare for what their kids may read, offer insights into positive aspects of the books, and give tips on areas to talk to kids about. In addition, we recognize that sometimes "dark" books may be difficult to read, but can offer an excellent way for teens to think about the world we live in.

With the movie The Guardians of Ga'hoole coming out next week, children may be expressing an interest in Kathryn Lasky's mainstream book series of the same name. The movie is reportedly based on the first three books in the fifteen-book series, so those are the three I reviewed.

The Capture, The Journey
and The Rescue chronicle the adventures of a brave little barn owl named Soren, and three of his friends. In a classic tale of good versus evil, Soren finds himself captured and imprisoned at St. Aggies, an "orphanage" whose leaders brainwash young owls, and use them for work. Eventually, the leaders at St. Aggie's hope to conquer all owl lands. Brave Soren and his spunky friend, Gylfie, manage to escape brainwashing by thinking quickly and telling each other tales of the legendary "knights of Ga'hoole" who are protectors and defenders of all owls. When Soren and Gylfie escape, they set out to find the great Ga'hoole tree and pledge themselves in service as guardians.

Along the way, they meet like-minded owls, and learn of an even greater threat to Ga'hoole--Metal Beak, and his band, who aim to rid the world of all owls except barn owls. Lasky draws on her Russian Jewish heritage, and historical events such as Russian pogroms and Nazi concentration camps to characterize both the orphanage and Metal Beak and his band.

What I Like: I always like a rousing adventure, especially one where good must triumph over evil. The Guardians of Ga'hoole tell inspiring tales of adventure, heroism and friendship, sure to appeal to boys and girls alike. Each book leaves you wondering what will happen next to Soren, Gylfie, and the rest of their band of appealing, lovable characters.

I also like the way Lasky weaves scientific information about owls into the books. She highlights many differences between species of owls, and makes interesting facts about various owls central to the storyline. My son can tell you things like how far away a barn owl can hear a mouse's heartbeat, but Lasky never loses sight of the adventure.

What I Dislike: Lasky replaces various words with made-up words, such as "dwenking" instead of "waning." This can be annoying--sometimes I would rather she just used the English word.

There is an owl version of heaven--"Glaucora" and Glaux is worshiped as the first owl. However, these are not meant to be allegories of the Christian God and heaven. Sometimes, owls die, and the third book introduces the concept of "scrooms" (owlish for ghosts) and the "scrooms" of Soren's parents visit him to deliver a message. I think you would have to read all fifteen books to get a clear picture of Lasky's religious views (or at least the system of religion in the books).

Also, there are some tasteless "wet pooper" jokes, which my son found hilarious, but weren't my favorite. (Owls don't "poop"--waste forms a small pellet in their gizzard and they spit it up.) There are some references to using bad words, (all in "owlish") but characters are often scolded for doing so.

Age Appeal: 8-12, but my 6-year-old son has enjoyed listening to the book on CD

Publisher Info: Scholastic, 2006; ISBN: 978-0439884761; Paperback Boxed Set, $23.96

Buy it at for $14.01. (Boxed Set of books 1-4)

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Anonymous said...

I always appreciate your book reviews, but must comment regarding the Guardians of Ga'hoole. Owls do poop just like other animals. Their pellets are just the indigestible bones and hair of their prey. I think other birds of prey tear their food apart instead of swallowing it whole, but I'm not sure. Maybe someone else can gives us a better science lesson!

Erin said...

Hi there! My mistake--I do think she mentions they have some liquid waste, but maybe most of the waste is spit up, so perhaps they just aren't as messy as other birds? :) I really don't know anything about owls besides what I have read in these books. . . Thanks for the additional information. Blessings! Erin

Anonymous said...

Well due to the way the owls have evolved they produce mainly pellets as waste. They do poo but not as much as other birds of prey. The religion of the owls isn't really relevant to how good the books actually are I found them enjoyable even if there is no message about "god or jesus". I mean you lot seem to get enjoyment from your fictional book about men who can part seas e.c.t. :) 10/10

Proverbs Thirty One Woman said...

Anonymous, the point of this blog is to help parents wade through books for their kids to determine whether or not they want to either read the titles to their kids or have their kids read them independently. Not all books need to be about God, but parents who visit this website want to know whether or not they do.

P.S. No man parted a sea. That was something God did. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering what "e.c.t." means. Am I missing something or was this person trying to type "etc." which is the correct abbreviation for "et cetera"???

Anonymous said...

I love LEGEND OF THE GAURDIANS:THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE. The movie is very well-made. The animation is SOOO realistic-looking, that every time I watch it, I almost always forget that the owls are animated and not real! I think the computer-animation for LEGEND OF THE GAURDIANS:THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE is FAAR better done than the children's movie HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON!

I REALLY hope they make a sequel soon! If they did, I'd definitely go see it in theaters!