March 10, 2022

Knight Owl

By Christopher Denise
Review by
In Christopher Denise’s Knight Owl, the titular hero cleverly transforms a menacing foe into a memorable friend using bravery, perseverance and kindness.
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A tiny owl becomes an unexpected hero in Knight Owl, a tale of dreams, dragons and determination.

“Since the day he hatched, Owl had one wish. To be a knight.” Owl loves to envision himself armed with a sword and shield and bravely confronting a dragon. At Knight School, his hard work and resilience are rewarded, though the experience is not without challenges, including heavy swords and Owl’s “habit of nodding off during the day.”

After graduation, Owl takes a post on the Knight Night Watch. One night, a hungry dragon approaches the castle. Although he is frightened, Owl reminds himself that he is “a real knight and knights are brave.” He cleverly finds a way to transform his menacing foe into a memorable friend.

Knight Owl has all the ingredients for an old-fashioned tale of medieval gallantry. Owl’s blend of ambition and tender vulnerability will be instantly relatable to young children who, like Owl, live in a world designed for creatures much bigger than they are.

Suffused with luminous warmth, the jewel-tone illustrations by author-illustrator Christopher Denise are a visual feast. Denise intersperses full-bleed spreads depicting cozy interiors and starlit castle walls with humorous and poignant vignettes of Owl and his endearing knightly pursuits. Early on, Denise depicts Owl’s heroic aspirations in a style that evokes medieval tapestries, and whimsical details abound, such as a textbook held open to a chapter called “How to build knight stuff.” Effective shifts in perspective underscore Owl’s diminutive size as he stands watch on the castle’s high wall and, later, quakes under the looming gaze of the golden-eyed dragon.

In Tremendous Trifles, a 1909 collection of columns written by the English writer G.K. Chesterton and originally published in the Daily News, Chesterton memorably observed, “The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.” In its own way, Knight Owl does this as well, demonstrating how dragons can be overcome through bravery, perseverance and kindness. And in Owl’s case, with a shared box of pizza.

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Knight Owl

Knight Owl

By Christopher Denise
Christy Ottaviano
ISBN 9780316310628

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