Children's books in the Strib: What a hoot

By Laura Billings Coleman
Star Tribune

Erickson_Twelve coverEver since he was introduced to Harry Potter, one of my sons has made yearly petitions to Santa, begging for a snowy owl of his own. It's possible his persistence will someday wear down St. Nick's resolve, but until then there's "Twelve Owls" (University of Minnesota Press, $19.95), a gift-worthy field guide that may persuade young readers that these rare birds are more magical in real life than in the world of J.K. Rowling.

Consider the tiny boreal owl, which casts such a spell that a single 4-ounce specimen can start cellphone apps buzzing as the birding world's GPS coordinates all point toward Two Harbors, Minn., where one or two are usually glimpsed every season. Author Laura Erickson captures the scene in cinematic detail, noting the clever way the owl uses its beak to snap the spines of unlucky field mice.

The 11 other owl species native to Minnesota get equal star treatment in this lovingly researched book, which brings barn, barred and burrowing owls to life in actual-sized portraits painted by artist Betsy Bowen, Grand Marais' gift to Minnesota.

Bottom line: If you can't get your kids a snowy owl this season, this book will teach them where to look for one. From what we read, Duluth seems like a good place to start. (Bowen and Erickson will be at Common Good Books in St. Paul at 5 p.m. Dec. 4. Erickson will be at Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis at 1 p.m. Dec. 10.)

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