The 25th anniversary edition of Owl Babies features a text in the front of the book that describes how its authors ‘touched on a timeless truth – capturing the attachment and deep affection between a mother and child with humour and tenderness.’ The back features two quotes from the authors themselves – Martin Waddell comments how the book was inspired by seeing a young child lost in a supermarket, repeating the phrase “I want my mummy” over and over again, which of course became key to the story. He adds also that he hopes he has reassured each child who reads it that their fears are reasonable, and that their loved ones will always be there for them. Illustrator Patrick Benson, meanwhile, talks about the challenge of creating a world that was ‘realistically dark, but ultimately unthreatening’, and about helping to abate a child’s fear of the night and reassure them that their mum will always be there. Judging by the fact that the book has shifted four and a half million copies since its initial publication in 1992, and was subsequently adapted as a short animation for the Channel 4 Schools show ‘Rat-a-tat-tat’, they have clearly succeeded in their aims.
The premise of the book is simple but familiar. The three titular owl babies – Sarah and Percy and Bill – live in a hole in a tree with their mother. One night they wake up to find she has gone out hunting, and they try to keep their spirits up as they wait for her to come home. Sarah and Percy try to reassure one another, while Bill punctuates these reassurances by uttering the aforementioned key phrase each time. Finally, though, Mother Owl returns to them, and all is well.
It’s easy to see why this book has been so successful. The theme is certainly relatable for each child at any point in their lives, which proves so reassuring and comforting when it comes to any fears that they may have, especially when they may be apart from a loved one for a significant period of time. An essential for your child’s bookshelf, if it’s not there already.
Images courtesy of Walker Books, who have published Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson.
The 25th anniversary edition of Owl Babies is out now, published by Walker Books.