The Plot: Soren is a barn owlet born in the forest of Tyoto. Living with his family in the hollow of a fir tree, he has many things to look forward to. He has just had his “first fur “ceremony, in which he eats his first meal with fur in it, and it will soon be time for his “first bones,” in which he will be expected to regurgitate pellets, just like a healthy adult owl would. After that he will begin to learn how to fly!
But there are also problems in Soren’s life. His older brother Kludd is a bully and at times seems to possess an even darker side that goes beyond that. Soren worries about Kludd’s influence on their younger sister Eglantine. There are rumors as well of a egg snatchings. Someone or something has been raiding owl nests and stealing the eggs. Such a things has never been heard of in the forests of Tyoto before.
Soren’s life abruptly changes when he falls (or was he pushed by Kludd?) out of the nest one evening. He is soon snatched up and carried aloft by a powerful owl who takes him to a stony place with deep, narrow canyons. Hundreds of other young owls are there as well, all of them having been kidnapped from their homes. He discovers out that this is “St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls.” During the first full moon, the owlets are marched together outside. Soren makes friends with an elf owl named Gylfie and together they discover that the Academy is trying to “moon blink” them, a process in which an owl basks in the moonlight and is made crazy. The two owls discover other areas of St. Aegolius as well and realize that the Academy has a sinister purpose. Soren and Gylfie must escape from this place and make it back to their homes to warn the other owls.
Personal Reaction: I have been wanting to read some of The Guardians of Ga’hoole series for some time and I was not disappointed. Lasky keeps the story moving along at a brisk pace while managing to create a convincing fantasy world. I appreciated that Lasky presents a great deal of factual information about owls, including some of the not so appealing topics of regurgitation and excretion. These bathroom subjects are approached in such a way that the young readers will understand that these are important part of the owl’s lives and not just put in the book for comedic material.
Themes: desire for power, orphans, bullies, kidnaping, creating new family, enslavement, searching for home.