Merry and Hark: A Christmas Story

Algonquin. Oct. 2023. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781643752389.
K-Gr 2–Merry the saw-whet owl lives in a spruce tree called Hark and dreams of becoming a hero like brave owls of legend. One morning, Merry awakes to the harsh sounds of Hark being cut down. They are transported to a noisy urban area, where Hark is decorated in a city square and Merry is afraid to come out. A kind human finds the owl and cares for her, eventually returning her to the forest, where she has now become a subject of legend. Though not the first fictional outing of an owl based on the real-life Rocky, who was discovered in the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 2020, this is perhaps the most somber telling. The language is poetically descriptive, engaging all senses in depictions of forest and city. A palette of blues, grays, and browns creates a wintry, dusky atmosphere. Though the bedecked Hark shines with more color, the mood remains pensive and dark. Text vividly describes the city from the perspective of a small, scared creature; but in doing so, it creates an imbalanced impression that urban landscapes are dangerous and malevolent.
VERDICT This book will broaden the scope of emotions in your Christmas collection and remind little folks they can do big things.

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