October lives with her father off-grid in the woods and has been brought up to run wild and free. They only venture into the town for essentials such as new clothes and shoes. October learns everything from their well-thumbed collection of books. She has a wonderfully close relationship with her father sharing her imaginative stories with him. October’s mother left when October was four to live in the city and October always refers to her as the woman who is my mother refusing to see her mother when she visits.
One day October finds a baby owl. Her father tells her to leave but the owl is still there the next day so October takes it home. Against all the odds the owl survives and the fierce creature bonds with the wild child. There are obvious parallels with the motherless owl and the motherless child.
Then disaster strikes on October’s eleventh birthday as her mother arrives to wish her happy birthday and when her father tries to get October to come down from a tree he falls in the process. October has no other choice but to go and live with her mother in London while her father slowly recovers in hospital.
Miserable at being confined inside four walls and feeling it is her fault her father is injured, October refuses to engage with her mother but slowly she opens up, helped along by making a friend at her new school and joining a mud-larking club where she realises the treasures she finds have stories to tell much like the objects she finds in the forest at home. And when she discovers her mother makes jewellery from found objects, she realises they are not so different after all. October’s mother allows her daughter to comes to things in her own way and the two come to a greater understanding when the difficult decision arrives to take the baby owl to a wildlife sanctuary to eventually set it free.
This is a sensitive and beautiful story showing the importance of storytelling to enrich our lives. The writing is lyrical and evocative and relishes in both the smaller details and the more powerful forces of nature. The love between father and daughter is tender and October’s progress in allowing her mother into her life and seeing the value of friends is lovely to watch. I wonder though if the story is viewed at times from a more adult perspective than a child’s. Children are left to judge for themselves the pros and cons of living wild in the woods versus a more controlled life in the city.
The black and white illustrations showing the different stages of development of the baby owl are stunning. Plus, the book has one of the most glorious jackets I have seen.